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Old 06-14-2012, 07:44 PM   #1
VydorScope
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5 Mistakes Of New Fiction Writers

5 Mistakes Of New Fiction Writers

Here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/...ction-writers/

What do you think?
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Old 06-15-2012, 01:21 AM   #2
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Wow, I had real problems with that first one for years, but finally got it licked. The other four though were never a real issue with me. My two biggest issues were overusing words, or one particular word too many times, such as the word "nodded", and also over explaining things. Being of a technical mindset, in my early days of writing I'd spend half a chapter explaining something that only needed about a 2-3 sentence overview. Eventually I took the latter issue and applied the rule of "if they don't need to know it, I'm not explaining it, period." The first one, the problem of excessively repeating words, was solved by putting together a rule in my head that no words, unless absolutely critical to grammar, can be reused in any sentence or piece of dialog for at least 3-5 sentences. So if I used the word "nodded", to go back to an earlier example, I couldn't use it again for at least 3-5 sentences, or in some cases I even restrict myself to not using it again for the entire page, unless absolutely needed. Oddly enough, those two rules have actually helped improve my writing by forcing me to be creative by leaving no room to be lazy.
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Old 06-15-2012, 01:59 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Steven Lake View Post
[...]My two biggest issues were overusing words, or one particular word too many times, such as the word "nodded", and also over explaining things. [...]
Same here. "Seemed" is one I still have to watch. Spending so much time looking at things from a particular character POV, it seems (there I go again) natural to say how things seemed to that character, even though how things seem is not always how they really are, or that the character can only say how it seems because they don't know how it really is. (Or so it seemed to me. ) I've had to learn to be more definite - which seems (just jerking your chain with that one) to have improved my writing.

And that previous paragraph could have been replaced with: I use "seem" too much.

Last edited by gmw; 06-15-2012 at 02:01 AM.
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Old 06-15-2012, 06:02 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Lake View Post
My two biggest issues were overusing words, or one particular word too many times, such as the word "nodded", and also over explaining things. ... the problem of excessively repeating words, was solved by putting together a rule in my head that no words, unless absolutely critical to grammar, can be reused in any sentence or piece of dialog for at least 3-5 sentences. So if I used the word "nodded", to go back to an earlier example, I couldn't use it again for at least 3-5 sentences, or in some cases I even restrict myself to not using it again for the entire page, unless absolutely needed. Oddly enough, those two rules have actually helped improve my writing by forcing me to be creative by leaving no room to be lazy.
In general the re-use of words is a personal bug up my own ass. It's like a skip in a record reading the same phrasing or words in close proximity.

I was watching Louie Theroux's show on porn stars and he was on set. I paraphrase but the girl said "What are we going to do about this? My father will never allow this." and the director pulled her on it, "The line is, 'What are we going to do about it? My father will never allow this.' You can't use this and this straight after like that." Made my night. Also, everybody was naked so bonus.

If you used "nodded" more than once a chapter I'd probably be unhappy. Some words you only get to use once a book. The exception being if you're trying to deliberately drive home a point by using the same word several times in succession.

I highlighted an important point there. These rules improve writing immeasurably.

The other rules are to avoid -ly words and reduce to nothing the use of "be words" like "is, are, was, were" to avoid making your writing passive.

But I'm pretty obsessive and read a deal of slush so I've become more sensitive over the years.

Oh, I remembered another "it was like.." or "it was as if" - if you're using those in a sentence you're doing it wrong. Also avoid diminishing your point by saying stuff like "he might have..." or "it could have been..." - "if... then..." is almost always better.

Last edited by dadioflex; 06-15-2012 at 06:08 AM.
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Old 06-15-2012, 07:49 AM   #5
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Heh, I get yelled at by my wife who does my first round of editing because I often start lines of dialog with "Well, ..."

I think repetitive/over use of words is a very common problem with writers in general.
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Old 06-15-2012, 07:55 AM   #6
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When I look at my old stuff I tended to over-write things (like 3 pages of someone making a cup of tea, or droning on for ages about what clothes people are wearing). I still do that a bit now, but it gets cut after the first draft unless it's a fight scene. I also drift tense quite a lot, but I can spot that easily enough in the last read through.
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Old 06-15-2012, 08:47 AM   #7
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I'd like to add another fault of many writers, one of which I'm guilty: the overuse of semi-colons; they're addictive. We'll soon be hanging out at the Betty Ford clinic for writers hooked on the aforementioned punctuation mark.
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Old 06-15-2012, 09:16 AM   #8
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gmw: lol. Well said.

dadioflex: Agreed, especially on avoiding the use of slang or lazy grammar in writing. I might use it occasionally when I'm writing stuff on the web (probably because it doesn't matter as much) but I do my best to avoid it in my regular writing.

BookCat: lol. I actually get yelled at by my editors and feedback readers because I don't use enough of them. I finally got a literary boot up my butt not long back telling me to fix that problem or else. ^_^;;
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Old 06-15-2012, 09:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
5 Mistakes Of New Fiction Writers

Here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/...ction-writers/

What do you think?
I think these are true of beginning writers, but not for long unless they just don't get it.

The most complex piece of writing to my mind is show vs tell which I don't think I truly understood until relatively recently. (and might still be wrong )

But the others are pretty much beginner errors afaik.
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Old 06-15-2012, 09:23 AM   #10
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When I look at my old stuff I tended to over-write things (like 3 pages of someone making a cup of tea, or droning on for ages about what clothes people are wearing). I still do that a bit now, but it gets cut after the first draft unless it's a fight scene. .....
You drone on about tea and clothing in fight scenes?

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Old 06-15-2012, 09:24 AM   #11
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I'd like to add another fault of many writers, one of which I'm guilty: the overuse of semi-colons; they're addictive. We'll soon be hanging out at the Betty Ford clinic for writers hooked on the aforementioned punctuation mark.
I'm fighting that a bit at the moment.
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Old 06-15-2012, 09:38 AM   #12
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Over-using the word "then" as an action separator in my early writings was a big issue for me, and I'm still un-writing it from manuscripts when I catch myself doing it now. I'm not sure I've ever actually had the semi-colon fetish, but I've come close, and regularly find myself rewriting text in order to share the load between semi-colons, M-dashes, ellipses and the occasional set of parentheses.

I think over-using words probably should have been in that list. I'd also be tempted to add overuse of atypical sentence structures, which can be a nice personal signature when used occasionally and appropriately, but can be jarring and annoying when used too often.

(And I actually can't think of a good example right now... if I think of one later, I'll edit it in.)
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Old 06-15-2012, 09:44 AM   #13
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The most complex piece of writing to my mind is show vs tell which I don't think I truly understood until relatively recently. (and might still be wrong )
Show vs tell is tricky; a constant balance between important vs unimportant, hiding vs revealing too much, and avoiding projecting too much of either (and giving something away) in the way you show or tell.
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Old 06-15-2012, 11:12 AM   #14
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Over-using the word "then" as an action separator in my early writings was...
Agreed. I have issues with using the world "Then" too much as well. Sometimes though I have to switch off the grammar nazi mode and concentrate on the story at large, no matter how bad it sounds when I'm done, and then just come back on the first edit pass and go completely postal on it grammar wise, ensuring that both the scene is top notch, as well as the writing. One trick I've started doing over the past two years is to just pound out a series of scenes one day, grammar and spelling be damned, and then come back the next day, and before writing anything new, I go back through those same scenes and clean them up really, really nice. Oddly enough, it works for me, and also acts as a refresher for where I'm at in the manuscript, recently added facts and canon, and so on. I've also found that subconsciously I'm becoming much cleaner on my prose simply through doing it this way, because my first edit sweeps are requiring less cleanup than before.
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Show vs tell is tricky; a constant balance between important vs unimportant, hiding vs revealing too much, and avoiding projecting too much of either (and giving something away) in the way you show or tell.
Oh heavens, I think everyone struggles with this one. I know I still do. That was one thing I got my butt reamed about regularly when I was first starting out. Someone finally had to take one of my narratives and rewrite it with show rather than tell so I could understand what they meant. That's when it finally clicked. It's like saying, "Don't tell me Johnny is an egotist. Show me!" It's like the difference between these two lines:

Tell: Johnny was an egotist.
Show: "I'm the greatest thing since god, and I am the most incredible as well, and nobody is greater than I am, so kneel before me, slave!"

It's probably not the best example, but it gets the point across. Either way, of all the issues that writers struggle with, this is probably the biggest.
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Old 06-15-2012, 11:45 AM   #15
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I've never seen a semi-colon yet that wouldn't be better replaced with a fullstop.
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