Tag Archives: Writer

Writing Fiction? 10 Common Writing Errors That Make You Look Like a Newbie

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This is an article by Sarah White that I thought I would share with you. It’s always a good thing to read advice that can help improve our writing.  Shirley

You’re about to work on your first big writing project. Whether it’s a novel, memoir, or short story, you don’t want everyone to know it’s your first (even if you’re shaking in your boots, just a little).

Many first-time writers fall into traps that can decrease the quality of their piece, and these newbie blunders can diminish their credibility.

New writers fall into these habits for all kinds of reasons: putting pressure on themselves to write something enormous and profound, attempts to mimic other authors, and probably in the most common occurrence, a bad case of writer’s block during their first big project of their career.

The pressure is on and your brain has gone into panic mode, resorting to comfortable cliched phrases.

Not to worry: these writing pitfalls can be easily sidestepped with some awareness.

Here are 10 of the most common writing errors that new authors should strive to avoid.

1. Including too many cliches

Just because it’s the most popular phrase doesn’t mean it’s the most effective. Consider your personal experiences before plunking down a common saying or phrase — those unique reactions are what give you an edge as a writer.

Even when writing fiction, use your own perspective to your advantage as you play with metaphors and other ways of developing your story.

2. Writing inauthentic dialogue

Suspending disbelief is easy when the dialogue in your story universe sounds natural. Dialogue is extremely hard to do well, but can also make or break your story.

Listen to conversations around you; take note of verbal ticks or idiosyncrasies that appear in normal human speech.

3. Rushing the plot

Getting your characters from Point A to Point B is certainly important, but not so much as providing a solid foundation for these transitions.

Whether you decide as you go or map out your character’s story beforehand, ask your editors or critique group if they can name the cause and effect of each major event. DIY MFA’s mapping technique can help you organize the interwoven events that take place over the course of your story.

4. Choosing a cop-out ending

“And then he woke up” is a perfect example of a cop-out: an ending that negates all other given information that the readers have been led to believe is useful in analyzing the plot, characters, and ending.

After fully engaging with the universe you’ve created, your readers don’t want to feel tricked!

5. Abandoning or using your characters

If a character suddenly makes an “exciting” choice that makes no sense with his or her aforementioned stable traits, your readers will instantly question your motivation for inserting that choice into your story.

To avoid this pitfall, take special consideration when choosing your point of view. An event in your character’s life that might read as mundane in a typical third-person scenario might come across as more significant in a first-person voice.

6. Repeating syntax

An entire paragraph — let alone an entire novel — of “The [adjective] [noun] [verb-ed] the [adjective] [noun]” sentences will not hold the attention of your audience, no matter the reading level.

If you’re cranking out a first draft, don’t spend too much time worrying about this. But if you’re ready to have a colleague review your work, scan each page for this predictable repetition.

7. Not trusting your audience

Over-explanation can be just as harmful to your work as under-explanation. As mentioned earlier, your audience does not like to feel deceived, and they certainly do not like to feel belittled, either.

Much of the joy of reading is discovering your connection to the author’s writing. Remember to let your readers dig into your story independently.

8. Changing the setting excessively

Unless constant shifts in space and time are essential to your piece, you need not create pauses after every event. Connecting to a piece of writing is challenging when there isn’t at least some sense of fluidity.

While there can be many settings, timelines, or universes — and creating an unusual format is always an interesting feat — consider whether every shift is a necessary one.

9. Not doing your research

Even if you “write what you know,” it’s critical to verify your information for factuality, especially if your story is heavily based in realism.

Say that your story’s villain is a world-renowned scientist; you’ll lose your readers with the first innacurate algorithm. No one is scared of a mad scientist that can’t even do the math for his own experiments.

Figure out how to access the databases at your local public or university library to locate journals, documents, and other research to support your story.

10. Forgetting your audience

“You can’t win ‘em all,” they say, but you can win over the hearts of yourparticular demographic. Know who you’re writing for and who you plan to reach, or you risk reaching nobody. If you’re in love with your historical fiction piece, don’t write to please the romance enthusiasts.

If you find a couple of cliches or other common errors after your first draft, don’t sweat it!

We’ve all come across at least one of these holes in our own writing. In the end, a good portion of creating fresh, interesting work relies on trusting your own instincts.

Keep an eye out, use good judgement, and most importantly, write from your own experiences and your own heart.

The Heat Monster

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heat-shimmering

This blog was originally published in Southern Living and was written by Rick Bragg who is a Pulitzer Prize- Winning writer and author of several best selling books. I identified with it so much I wanted to share it with you.

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When I was a boy, when monsters were real.  I would see it in the distance, hovering just above the hot, almost liquid blacktop.  It had no form, just a thing shimmering, indistinct.  Now I know it was the heat itself, distorting the very air.  How odd, to see the heat. But when I was small, it was easy to see more in it than that.  This was the creature that came in the worst of summer, the boiling eye of it.  It was the could in a white-hot sky that gave up no rain.  Aristotle knew it, and the Romans, and then us, in the American South.  That thing of glimmering heat from my imagination did not have a name, truly, but its season did.  We called it the dog days.

The Greeks and Romans believed Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Great Dog), ushered in an evil season in late summer, one that boiled seas and soured wine and sent people and livestock into fits.  In that season, the DogStar and our sun hung together in the heavens, one rising, one setting, which, they believed, produced more heat than the planet could stand.

Now, of course, we know it is the tilt of the planet, closer to the sun, that brings the heat, but my grandmother knew better.  Ava Bundrum knew there were more things than heaven and earth, and spoke of the dog days the way she would any unnatural thing.  She would motion me close, as if the clinging air were listening, wave a cardboard funeral home fan at me like she was giving me some kind of blessing, and tell me to stay out of the pasture, stay out of the woods.

It was more than myth.  Dogs went mad, or lay panting, glassy-eyed, and you could not rouse them to play.  Food went bad in the dog bowls.  Cats, through, did not seem to care.  Cats don’t ever care.

I can remember children crowded around a rattling box fan, as if it were telling them a story.  I remember strong men going white as chalk, trying to catch their breath.

Bulls went mad and tore through fences.  Cows would not give mild, and when they did, it went sour, or tasted of sulfur or onions.  Birds flew in the house, a bad omen.  It meant someone was going to die.  Chickens perished in the coops  Rabies resurfaced, in foxes, usually, and men shot them from the porch.

The gardens withered. You got either quick, violent storms or no rain at all.  Mudholes vanished into pieces of hard clay, like someone had smashed a pot on the ground.  Grogs perished, which made my grandmother sad; the more frogs, the healthier the land.  (Everyone knew that.) Only the insects reveled.  Flies and gnats swirled.  Mosquitoes danced. and there was nowhere to hide.

Air-conditioning was myth. We put a man on the moon before my family had a window unit.  But when we did, when the air blew cool in August, it was like the mean season became myth itself, just another story, like the ones that old people told of the Depression.  I guess I am the old people now.  I think of the dog days when I see that glimmer on the distant asphalt, but when I there, it is already gone.

ZfdfdStar and our sun hung tog

When Does Your Muse Strike?

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Little Pets 6

Image via Wikipedia

When do you think of new stories to write, or new books?  I was sitting at the dinner table yesterday evening and it came to me what my next book is going to be, along with the title.  I had an outline completed in my head and it all took place within a fifteen minute period of time.  It was  one of those times when no effort was being made but it all came together.

I can remember the content this morning, so it was something which touched me.  I find stories coming to me while lying in bed trying to read another book, or watching tv.  It seems anything can get those creative juices flowing.  I find it a rather amazing how my Muse comes into play at the oddest moments.

Todays video is about finding your Muse, just in case you lose it.  Have a great day.

http://youtu.be/dGwBVTsTPTM

 

What Is Your POV II?

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Pov

Image via Wikipedia

This blog continues the blog I started yesterday on POV in your writing.  I discussed the POV of “First Person.”  I am going to the store next to the house where I grew up.  It’s all about the main character who is doing the talking.  Today we are going to do the Third Person POV (point of view).

Just as with the first person POV, the third person POV divides into several types.

1.  Third Person: Single Vision

2.  Third Person:  Multiple Vision

3.  Third Person:  Omniscient

4.  Third Person: Objective

Third Person, Single Vision is not told by a character in the story.  It is a voice which is created by the writer and the reader hears what is coming from his mind.

Example: “He walked across the street, while is wife sat in the car.”

Using third person single vision lets the writer use language which may not be appropriate speech for the character being talked about.  Example would be if your main character were a deaf-mute person.

POV character is the character who’s POV is being recognized by the author.*The point of view character must be present for everything that takes place in the story, just as with a first-person narrator.  If your POVcharacter overhears a conversation, he/she may report that to the reader.  If the conversation takes place in a health-food store across town, the discussion is off-limits.

Third person: Multiple vision allows are writer to show a story’s events from different angles.  You must have the room in your writing to use this POV.  It’s most used in Novellas and Novels because they have the space to have multiple visions.  You may have a story with four characters each giving their own version of the story.  Using this type of POV can cause your reader not to be as focused on the story as with a single POV.

Third Person:  Omniscient  The writer is all-knowing, they know everything going on with the story and their characters.  The writer can enter the mind of any or all of the characters.  This is the POV which gives you the greatest freedom.  This POV can seem impersonal to the reader.  It can be overwhelming to the writer.  If you have four characters in a story you have to pay attention to each one of them because you know everything.

Third Person: Objective .   This POV is the hardest, I think, because you don’t have access to anyone’s mind.  You have to narrate in the third person of background, characterization, conflict theme and so forth through dialogue and action.  “It is giving the facts, and only the facts, ma’am.”

Video: Writing in Third Person

http://youtu.be/dwH62_5sXMo

 

What Is Fiction?

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All We Need

Fiction is a lie, an untruth, and for the writer it is a piece of writing using made up facts.  I love writing fiction because it lets me stretch my mind.  Use my imagination to make a world of love, joy, kindness, goodness, all of those Boy and  Girl Scout  ideals we learned so long ago.  I could also make a world so corrupt and dark, you’d cringe when you read the words.  It let’s the writer create whatever they want because it doesn’t have to be true.
As humans, why do we like stories?  They have been around as far back as man’s thinking abilities.  I can imagine a long ago ancestor, telling the family or a group of men how the hunt went that day.  I can see the proverbial “fish story” in the making.  It could have gone something like this; “You know what I saw today when I was hunting game, you’ll never believe it.  I sure didn’t when I first laid eyes on the creature.  You remember that huge rock  down by the lake?  It’s the one that won’t fit inside our cave.  The creature is bigger than the rock.  It is covered with brown hair and walks on two legs.  I could even see fangs hanging out its mouth.  I swear every word I’m telling you is true.”
We tell stories for entertainment, as well as to impart knowledge.  As humans we want to know about our existence, future and past.  The who, what, when, where and why of everything.  If we do not know for certain what the answers are then someone tends to create a story to fit the situation.
Fiction satisfies the need for entertainment.  We can use our imaginations and put ourselves in the world which has been created by the use of fiction.  The use of words and the imagination of us all is what’s needed for fiction.
Below is a video on Fiction Writing.  Enjoy

I Am A Writer, Are You?

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Being the person I am and now being a writer, I have to strive to improve myself everyday. I want to so the best job I can at what ever I am attempting to do. As far as writing goes, I have found myself learning from my writing friends and continuing to read. The daily learning keeps me going and also keeps writing for me very interesting.

I also know the longer you do something, the better it becomes because you have the experience it takes to do the job. I know in a year I will be in a different spot than I am today, as far as my writing abilities and understanding of the process.

Perseverance seems to be the name of the game. You can accomplish what ever you strive for if you don’t give up. I can see where giving up would be very easy. Writing is work, and you certainly don’t get quick results. I’ll just keep plugging along and eventually I will get to where I want to be. That’s life isn’t it?

I have been doing a lot of reading about other writers and how they struggle to put words on paper, or how to start the book they want to write. I compare them to myself and I wonder why…..I decided I wanted to write one day and I started writing. I did not make an outline, I did not struggle with what should be there.  My struggle was, and is with grammar.  All of those wonderful grammar rules.   It has been a long time since I was in school and there is a lot I do not remember.

Am I less a writer than they are? I don’t think so. I have come to believe that each of us have our stories inside and how we put them on paper doesn’t really matter. It may matter to the people who publish my work, but bottom line to me is you have the words on the paper. Everything else can be adjusted or rearranged to my liking. I have never thought of myself as a writer before, but I guess I am. I put words on paper and it’s been published. That makes me a writer….yeah me….

If you write a short story, you are a writer. That college papers I worked  so hard on, long ago and printed out for the instructor, I was a writer. I may not have been a well-known writer but I still qualified.

A lot has changed over the years, just not the fact that I am unknown to most of the world. For me I think that is just fine. I am having fun just doing what I am doing, and that is writing.

We Are Not Alone

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Day 6:  Are you as lost as I am when it comes to dealing with Social Media?  I can write all day long but trying to figure out all of the ins and outs of all of the social networking sites.  I am a real babe in the woods.

I decided I needed to learn as much as I could about the subject.  I purchased a book called “We Are Not Alone, The Writer‘s Guide to Social Media,” by Kristen Lamb.  What a phenomenal little book.  She explains everything in an easy to read and understand format.  The book had been recommended to me by a friend, because she knew I had just published “The Tower” and would be doing my own promotion work.

According to Kristen, beyond selling books, social media can help the writer learn from the very best and it makes networking with people very easy.  An aspiring author and make mentors of their favorite best-selling authors.  You can zero in on resources you need without combing through books, magazine articles, ect. to learn your craft.

She even goes into Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs.  She says the secret of sales is on the pyramid.  Marketing uses our tendency to buy or do things because of our emotions.  When you are writing it is important to illicit emotion from your reader.  If you didn’t they might read the first chapter and then close the book forever.

We need to bring people out of their comfort zone.  As Kristin wrote, comfortable people do not have needs for us to fill.

The back cover of her book says it all:  Social Media is more popular than ever.  As society becomes more technologically advanced, people are seeking new ways to connect.  Relationships are vital to our survival and our mental and emotional health.

There are more opportunities for a new author today than ever before.    With thousands and thousands of author with books and blogs, how can a writer succeed?

Kristen’s method is simple, effective and helps author find ways to employ imagination and creativity in writing.

I for one will be using this little book to guide me on my discovery to social networking.  I hope to publish my second book, The Dobyns Chronicles, this fall.  I want to have a lot more knowledge about how social networking functions by the time that book is published.

I am finding  writing “The Tower” has been a learning experience for me.  I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until my book was published.  I am just a bit lost in processes.  It is good to know “We Are Not Alone.”