Thursday, 28 July 2011

Common faults made by Emerging Writers

This post inspired by reading some eBooks by new writers.
Read this post by Louise Wise first. Includes:
  • Boring. Nothing much happens. Doughy prose, stodgy story.
  • Point of View all over the place. Start with one person for a while, leap onto someone else's point of view, then back then... Or start with one person for ages, then leap to another. Disorientating.
  • Characters not showing enough emotion. Show us what they feel even if they're trying to hide it.
  • Minor characters with too much information. If the policeman is minor, don't tell us he's called Gregor.
  • Show, don't tell. This was a revelation to me the first time I heard it. I must have heard it close on to a thousand times now. e.g. The first time she was told, she felt it was an absolutely key piece of advice (telling) When Stuart told her the rule first, she wrote it down in her notebook in capital letters, underlined then tore the page out and stuck it above her writing desk when she got home. (showing)
  • Timeline. Is it winter? Does it matter? How long does it take to get the story from A to Z?
  • Irrelevant detail. Get the character out of the house. Don't show us her breakfast, unless she's going to spew it up all over the love interest later on.
  • Pompous words. OK, I get that if you know the word, archipeligo, you don't have to use it, but if it's the right word...On the other hand, if you mean small, why use diminuative? A thesaurus can be your best friend as long as you don't give into temptation.
  • Speech tags. Use said. Sometimes you can use asked. Don't use enquired, quipped, demanded, requested, queried, laughed, etc etc. It should be obvious from the context what it is. Whispered and shouted can sometimes be an exception.
  • Cliches. Within speech, OK. Otherwise, avoid. But what is a cliche? Your call.
To which I would add
  • If you're going to have vampires, zombies, magic, aliens, a crime, have it soon into your novel so the reader knows what to expect. Having the first sniff of a vampire appear 50% into the story is cruel and unnecessary.
  • Humour. I don't know of a good book that doesn't have a sniff of humour in it.
  • On the subject of humour, don't tell us when to laugh (By having your characters split their sides over some brief joke.)
  • Emotional tunnel. Too much despair, grief, loved-up-ness, anger, greed etc in one go can be too much. Break it up.
  • Description. Give us a little to go on. We don't need to know the layout of the apartment, the garden design or the photofit image but a few little details go a long way to painting a picture in the reader's head.


L.A Speedwing said...

Interesting as always. A good blog I discovered for the ones who feel up to a challenge. Blog short stories competitions. Yes I know. The concept is new to me too. Anyway, I thought it might interest your readers.

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks LA. I'll do a post soon on various online sites. WHich do you recommend?