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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How to Recognize Newbie Writing Mistakes...and fix them

Well the whole family is back from vacation and school started this week. It’s a new day for everyone. For me, it’s a new day of no more quiet days and getting the sleep I need. And needing a vacation after my vacation.
For my sons, it’s a new school year and my youngest is entering Kindergarten! Uh-oh, faculty watch out. Fathers, hold on to your daughters. The Wilks brothers are in the house!
I’ll be on pins and needles all week. Not too worried about my eldest because this isn’t his first rodeo. Although sometimes I wonder if it is with how forgetful he can be of the school and class rules. And from what’s right and wrong. Or is it because he’s hardheaded. Sigh.
Anyways, it’ll be a whole new world for my youngest. Learning and following the school and class rules. Sitting still. Though he’s the youngest, he has more common sense than his older brother, smh. But still, can’t help but wonder and worry. This will be all new to him.
He’s a newbie.
But we’re all newbies at one time or another. And the great thing about being a newbie is that you don’t remain one for long. Plus newbie or not, you’re always going to make a mistake and learn from it. When I first started writing again I made some newbie writing mistakes I thought I knew better not to do. So what did I do?
I learned from my mistakes, absorbed and applied writing tips and techniques to hone my craft. Am I a perfect writer now? No. My goal is not to be a perfect writer but a writer whose works can touch and entertain readers.
Do I still make writing mistakes? Oh, hell yes. And in this post, I’m sharing insights and tools that have helped me correct them.:
Info dumping
When I first started writing again I was a huge info dumper. Most if not all my backstory ended up in the story. Especially in the beginning. Which pretty much meant I had no hook and my story really started on the next page. So how did I fix it? Well I thought of it this way. Writing is a relationship between the author and the reader. It’s like a date. And nothing ruins a date more than going on and on about unnecessary things. Like the number of times you chewed your food that morning. Simply, there’s no reason to give everything away. It’s all about the pacing and the excitement in getting to know you. So let your readers get to know the story. Space and pace your clues. And let them enjoy trying to figure out the wonder of the world you're building by what you did leave out.
I’m always mixing tenses but I recently came upon a tip to help fix that. And that is to write your draft in the first person and present tense. When it’s time to rewrite, revise and edit then you change it in the tense you want it. Be it third person limited and simple past. Second person or you can decide the story flows better in first person and keep it as is.
Word usage
Five words. Thank god for the thesaurus. Writing isn’t as easy as it looks but those bestseller authors does make it look easy, don’t they? How are they capable of writing 90,000 and more words? How is it that they have no trouble not repeating and overusing words like ‘look,’ ‘said,’ and or ‘walk’? With a handy thesaurus by your side ‘look’ is replaced by ‘gaze’ or ‘gaze longingly.’ Instead of ‘said’ you can use ‘bragged’ or ‘chatted.’ Another word(s) for ‘walk’ are ‘stomp,’ ‘shuffle,’ and or ‘amble.’ Use a word cloud generator to find your most repeated words. And hunt through the thesaurus for a better word usage.
Keeping it hidden
I know it’s scary but sharing your writing and not keeping it hidden will get you out of the newbie writer zone. Put your writing out there, get feedback and critiques. The constructive criticism you’ll receive will help improve your writing. Plus, you’ll get to befriend other writers.  You should also try entering contests and submitting to anthologies. You’ll never know, your writing might be accepted for publication. Which would also lead to you gaining readers and fans of your writing.

What mistakes did you make when you first started writing?


Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Good points, Liddy. Newbie or seasoned writer, it's always good to follow your tips.

Unknown said...

In the matter of word usage, I think a lot of words--"said" in particular--become invisible to the reader. I am less distracted by the repetition of "said" than I am by a writer who is trying to be overly clever with overdoing gazed, mumbled, demurred, sighed, intoned, etc. etc. etc.

Huntress said...

Number one clue to a newbie write reviews: too many adjectives and adverbs.
Number two isn't as easy to spot. I see writers trying *too hard* not to use a familiar verb. Sometimes it's clearer and allows the story to flow if ya just spit it out with well used verbiage.

Lidy said...

@Karen Thank you.

@Kathleen & @Huntress It's quite a balancing act to know when and how to use words. Of course there are times it's best to say it straight and use your own voice. Trying to be too clever and being too flowery with your words won't make reading as enjoyable as it could be.

Chrys Fey said...

The info dumping is a hard one to escape. Even for experienced writers. I had a problem with info dumping for one WIP, and I now feel I might have it under control. Might. Maybe... :p

Janie Junebug said...

I used too many words--verbosity. As an editor, I often suggest to my clients, "Don't use a word unless it adds to the story." Your suggestions are excellent.


Liz A. said...

Ah yes, the dreaded info dump. We have a writer in our group who we're training to eliminate info dumps. Getting there. We were all there at one point, so we know how to help with that.

Kelly Hashway said...

I hope your youngest loves kindergarten. :)

Yes, these are all things for newbie writers to watch out for. Telling vs. showing is a big one. I see that all the time in the books I edit.

Lidy said...

@chrys I’m always on the lookout for info dumping in my WIP. I’m usually itching to add a little bit more information to a scene but then I’d reign myself in to pace myself. And remind myself to give drop clues to the MC’s back story little by little, little by little. Not to show my MC’s hand too soon. It’s been working so far but it’s like keeping a juicy secret too good to keep to yourself. But again, I have to remind myself that it’ll all be worth it.

@janie Thanks Janie. Good point. When I’m unsure I’m using a word correctly or if it’s the right word to use I double check the dictionary. Then I either cut it out or replace it with a simpler word.

@liz Yes, the dreaded infodump.Guess we do it because we’re so excited about our own story we want to share everything about it. To share all the knowledge of the world my story’s set in so the readers can know everything I know. Well at least that’s how I felt. But eventually I realized info dumping takes away from the reading experience. We read to dive into worlds and figure it out as we immersed ourselves with the characters and their reality. Enjoying the ride even with all of its frustrating bumps, detours and surprises.

@kelly Thanks and he is. Made two friends so far. And I can’t believe I forgot to mention telling vs showing. I still watch out for that one and try to maintain a balance of telling and showing. The trick is knowing when and where to tell and show. You can go ahead and tell how your MC quickly ate their food and ran out the door. But you show, using sensory details, during the important ‘action’ scenes. The dramatic, emotional scenes.

Darla M Sands said...

Excellent advice. I think my biggest mistake entailed using too many obscure words in an effort *not* to repeat common ones. It really bogged down those early stories.

Lidy said...

@Darla Me too. When it comes to writing (and perhaps other areas in life) keeping it simple is best. And if you can't keep it simple, cut out the unnecessary stuff. 'It's the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.'- Paulo Coelho