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Five Things Writers Should Learn From Computer Programmers

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Old 04-13-2007, 05:19 PM
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Default Five Things Writers Should Learn From Computer Programmers


Just as the various arts learns from their peers – look at Viewtiful Joe or The Incredibles for proof of that, so should people attempting to write for the first time learn from what computer programmers have known for a long time. This is not a be-all end-all, of course, but it should help potential literati get a toehold in this rapidly-developing technological world.
  1. Preserve bandwidth: write slim.

    This is something many writers – and, indeed, many programmers – miss at first, which leads to faulty writing and poor scripts. One trick to writing is to make sure your work only contains what it needs. Every time you write a line, ask yourself: is this something I need to finish my work? Is there a way of combining it with anything else? You'll often find that your work is less efficient than it could be.
  2. Make sure your piece is finished before you add anything else on.

    In writing, it's called an outline, a rough draft. Plan out what you're going to need to finish your piece first. After you have something worked out, fill in. Add your whistles and bells. Fill it out a bit. But without that finished product first, you're likely to miss something along the line.
  3. Before you start, ask yourself: is this something people will need?

    Many things can be made. But should they? If you find you're making something that copies something else, or you're working on a piece that nobody, yourself included, would ever take the time to look at, perhaps you should think about writing something else. It's not that you couldn't do it, or that you wouldn't feel proud finishing it. It's that finishing a major work, only to see it ignored completely, hurts more than telling yourself that you might want to revise your concept just a bit.
  4. Those little bugs make things look bad.

    You could have yourself a masterpiece, a work that will define how things are done for years to come. The only problem is, if it doesn't work right, people are going to try and avoid it. People care about the small things, not just the overall picture. When you're done, go over it, look for things that might not have the effect you're looking for. Get other people to review it, too. Just don't call them “beta-testers” to their face.
  5. When you're done, move on to something new.

    Don't pause for long periods of time, waiting for what you've made to gain some fame. Start working on something else immediately. You've learned from your last piece: now you can tackle something else a bit larger. If your other work catches on, it catches on. Great. If not, then it's better to already be working on something else that might become the next big t

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Old 04-13-2007, 06:07 PM
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Interesting analogy, even if programming and writing aren't comparable in a few respects.
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Old 04-14-2007, 01:30 AM
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I like this analogy, I'm a programmer as well as a writer so I can see the comparison with these golden rules. I've thought similar myself but never articulated it as such so thanks for that.

Can I add one? If you do it while you're drunk or otherwise inebriated, check it thoroughly afterwards!
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Old 04-14-2007, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by starrwriter View Post
Interesting analogy, even if programming and writing aren't comparable in a few respects.
Well, they're both written with the same end in mind: make something that isn't a difficult piece of work, create something new, and improve your own abilities. There are minor points, but there really is quite a bit of common ground.
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Old 04-15-2007, 05:32 PM
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Hehe, I'm an amateur programmer and an amateur writer. I never thought about the two this way, it's really a good way to look at it.
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Old 04-16-2007, 03:54 PM
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Up until this year, I tried to keep my coding work and my writing work separate - it resulted in writing that was never on par with what I wanted to create, and coding that never really finished. Now, I've been taking a really semantic look to the internet - like I do with writing, I look at how things interweave, where things slow down, what things don't fit in - and I look at my writing with a coder's eye. I feared that it would make my writing more mechanical, but on the contrary - now that I have some of the basics down to reflex, I can really work on that matters with writing.
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Old 04-24-2007, 01:15 PM
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I think you're missing some linebreaks...

I'm not a programmer, but the points you bring up are interesting.

While I would disagree that an outline is necessary for writing, it is very true that constantly going back to perfect the first few pages will keep you from finishing the story. THe one other place I really disagree is where you point out that writers should ask themselves "is it something people need"--writers must write for themselves because, once they start thinking too much about pleasing an audience, the result is comercial formula novels. I mean, you should always keep your audience in mind, but you needn't be slave to the--you just need to keep in mind that your book may not be popular, or even published. It makes sense to listen to the advice of friends/collegues/agents/editors, but you shouldn't sell your work's integrity in the proscess.
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Old 04-24-2007, 03:10 PM
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Revision is necessary, Pen. I've gone over AM for about 6 months now, and I can still make it better. It's not all I do, but it has to be done.

And "what people need" is something that stops coming up later for writers, but it's a big problem at first. Many people write endless dragon stories, say, when they don't know what to write about, because they really don't have any ideas yet. In that case, it's good to ask who needs what, as I said.
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Old 04-24-2007, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by ronoxQ View Post
Revision is necessary, Pen. I've gone over AM for about 6 months now, and I can still make it better. It's not all I do, but it has to be done.
I never said it wasn't necessary. I said an outline may be unnecessary and I agreed with you on the point that you should write your story first before going too much into the detail work.
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