Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Top Five Writing Goofs Guaranteed to Ruin Story

I thought I might share with you in the next few blog posts some of the worst mistakes I've made in my writing journey. Over the past seven years, I've hired several editors to edit my novels and tell me what I was doing wrong. One editor told me she about threw the book at the wall as she was that frustrated with my work.

Thank goodness her bluntness didn't stop me from writing. So here is a glimpse at what I've been told NOT to do in my own work. I hope it helps.

  1. Make Your Main Character Unlikeable.  In one of my earlier novels, my main character was a young, pretty, blond single girl on the verge of inheriting millions. She drove a sports car and lived in a beautiful condo. Can I say that she came across a little conceited? I didn't mean her to be that way. I gave her a nice best friend and the inability to find a love match but it wasn't enough. No one who read that story could connect with her. And if a reader can't empathize with your main character, they aren't going to read your book. So I learned to give my MC something right from the start--a characteristic or problem that a reader might care about her more.
  2. Dump Endless Backstory into the Opening.  Yes, I've did this in several of my books. I felt my reader had to know everything to connect and understand my story. Um, they don't. My job as a writer is to reveal the backstory in sprinkles throughout the book. Learn to slice your words. Find creative ways to add a piece of information. It really does make the story better.
  3. Describe everything with hundreds of adjectives and adverbs.  Describe that tree as tall, green, broad and waving fast in the wing... No, that doesn't work in this day and age. I grew up reading descriptive writing but today the reader wants to get to the plot and not sift through endless words. Everything is faster today. You don't want to bog down the reader with paragraphs of description that does nothing to move the story along.
  4. Head-Hop. Probably one of the first writing tools I needed to learn about was Point of View. I had to understand that if I wanted to draw the reader into my character, I needed to keep in that character's head and not jump all over the scene into others' heads. It takes work but really makes the story that much better. And yes I had to do a lot of reading on the topic to get it.
  5. Be so Thin-Skinned you never improve. Ouch. It wasn't easy to read my first critiques from writers and editors. But I had to put aside my feelings and recognize that if I wanted to write and get published, I needed to be open to learn. That meant take advice and recognize my weaknesses. Some writers can't do this and will never improve. That's sad because they are good writers but with a tweak here and there, they can be great writers.
I hope some of these suggestions help you in your writing journey. I will share more of what I've learned in my next post. Until then, HAPPY WRITING.

10 comments:

Carol Riggs said...

Yep, yep, and yep. I've done most or all of these myself. At least we're learning, right?! :) Great run-down of common problems!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Oh my goodness what kind of editor would be so cruel and blunt??? Oh well, glad it didn't stop you from writing.

Lily Robinson said...

I kept shrinking as I read this. I'm learning these things, but have quite a long way to go! After you read my chapter, I'm prepared to stay in bed crying for a day or so...and then I'll shake it off and work.

River said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I've read your hints above and will take note of each one. I don't have a book going, although I think about it and even did a creative writing course earlier this year. I participate in a weekly word challenge where I write a short piece each Friday and always keep hints like this in mind.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I had to chuckle, Terri, because I've made all these mistakes and more. I think it's almost a right of passage for an author. Hopefully, others can learn from our experience.

Lin Floyd said...

good suggestions! thanks...

Stephanie Faris said...

I'm judging a contest right now and the writers are all over the place with POV, head-hopping like crazy. It's often like we're seeing it from God's perspective, looking down on it all. I don't know how to tell them it's much more powerful and less confusing when you just pick a POV and stick with it. Maybe two POVs, with only one per scene, but not five or six!

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Donna OShaughnessy said...

Hello Terri! I am checking out your blog per Karen Jones Gowen suggestion. So glad I did. I too am learning every day. I wrote a novel and then realized...I needed lots more help. So going back to school at age 55. Loved this post. I will so be back.

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Terri, came over from Karen's blog -this is a good post. So much to consider and I read back a bit too. My fella is also a builder and we live now in Labrador to survive. Fortunately I like it there. I will come back to your site...I like folks who don't wear constantly cheerful masks!