LATEST RELEASES


Want to know what happened after Melt Into You ended?

Find out more |Read An Excerpt 

 

 

               Find Out  More! | Read an Excerpt

 

Find Out More | Read an Excerpt

 

COMING SOON


The complete novel

*Print version will have a bonus short story!

Releasing November 4, 2014!

Find out more 

 

 

DON'T MISS A THING

*This does not subscribe you to my blog.

FOLLOW ME


       

Search This Site
Powered by Squarespace
Latest From the Blog
Dig Through the Archives
100+ reading challenge 2010 about me adverbs agent agents ashley march author author blog author branding author intrusion author platform author voice author websites authors award awards backstory bad boy balance berkley heat best writing links beta club beta reader beta readers blog tour blog tours blogfest blogger blogging blogging tips book book covers book deal book marketing book promotion book reviews book title books branding characters comments contest contests crash into you creativity critique critique group critiquing dear author debut author deep point of view deep POV dialogue ebooks editing editors endings e-publishing excerpt face off friday feedback fiction fill-me-in friday first chapter first draft first novel genre genre fiction goals guest blog guest blogging guest post harlequin historical romance hook how to write humor ideas indie publishing inspiration interview joan swan Julie Cross kindle kissing blogfest kristen lamb links literary agent literary fiction love scenes marketing mashup melt into you memorable moments middle grade motivation motley crue movies muse music mystery mystery writing Nelson Literary Agency new years resolutions novels opening chapter opening lines openings overediting panster pantser paranormal pen name perfectionism pitching plotter plotting poll promotion publishing queries query query letter querying question of the day reading reading challenges rejection repost revising revisions romance romance author romantic suspense rough draft royal street rules RWA RWA nationals sagging middle Sara Megibow save the cat self-editing self-publishing sequels series sex scenes sierra godfrey social media social networking speed writing submissions suspense suzanne johnson teens tempest tiffany reisz time management TMI traditional publishing tumblr twilight twitter update urban fantasy voice WIP wip wednesday women's fiction wordiness work in progress wednesday workshops write tip writer writer toolbox writers writer's block writers' conference writer's toolbox writetip writing writing blogs writing contest writing craft writing goals YA young adult
« My First Crush and poll results | Main | Face Off Friday: E-publishing »
Monday
Sep142009

No! No! Bad Writer

 

Growing up, I was a girl who (except for the occasional rebellious moment) followed the rules. I wanted my parents, family, and teachers to be proud of me. I did what I was supposed to, got the As, and developed a bit of a perfectionistic personality. In many ways, this was a good thing. On the other hand, worrying about perfection is a bit maddening because of course it can never be achieved.

When I started to get serious about my writing last year, I jumped in and just started typing. I didn't pick up a writing book, read an agent blog, or do a lick of research. Very unlike me. But the creative juices were churning and I needed to get the words on the page before I did anything else. Once I finished my first draft, I took a breath and started to read more about writing. And boy, oh boy, there was enough out there to send me into a near panic attack.
There was so much I didn't know, so many rules I had never heard of. I thought with a firm grasp on grammer, an idea about story structure, and the show don't tell rule, I was good to go. I had no idea there was a written (and unwritten) code of the do's and don'ts of writing. This, of course, sent my anal-retentiveness into overdrive. I jumped into editing and tried to fix the things I had no idea were wrong the first time around. Then, draft after draft, I would discover a new rule I wasn't aware of and would have to go back through again. It was liking trying to break the code into a secret society.
And it hasn't stopped yet. I'm still learning new rules and agent/publisher preferences every day. At times, it's overwhelming, but I want my manuscripts to be as good as they can be, so I'll keep digging and finding out what I can. I know I can never reach perfection, but I can sure try, lol.
What I Done Learnt So Far:
1. Adverbs are the devil incarnate. They will steal the soul of your verbs.
2. Excessive adjectives are like white shoes after Labor Day.
3. Prologues (this one hurt) are not your friend.
4. Dialogue tags are like big, fat "I'm a new writer" billboards in your manuscript
5. The being verbs are the ugly stepchildren of the verb family
6. You want verbs that go to the gym--nice and strong.
7. Rhetorical questions in query letters make agents burn your letter in a weekly bonfire.
8. Backstory should be slipped in like roofies into a drink--your reader didn't even notice it happened.
9. Present Participial phrases are generally bad. (This one is a new discovery for me. Editortorent has a whole series on PPPs alone.)
10. Hidden/Buried Dialogue is not preferred and slows down your pacing. (This one is also new to me. My handy dandy critique group gave me a lesson on this one recently. Apparently, dialogue passages need to be in one of the following structures:
  • dialogue -->narrative-->dialogue
  • narrative-->dialogue
  • dialogue-->narrative
NOT narrative-->dialogue-->narrative OR (my personal favorite) Dialogue-->narrative-->dialogue-->narrative. Don't bury dialogue in the middle of narrative. I did this all over the place, including the submissions I currently have with agents--sigh).
I'm sure there are hundreds more rules, but these are the ones that made the most impact on me.
What writing rules have you discovered that you never knew existed? Which rule stabbed you in the heart when you heard it? Which one is your biggest enemy--the one who sneaks in your writing all the time?
**Today's Theme Song**
"Know Your Enemy"-- Green Day
(player in sidebar, take a listen)

 

Reader Comments (22)

What a great post! I'm still crying over prologues too! And I love number one, I think I'll right that one down ;)

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterT. Anne

Thanks for the list. I love learning new rules. I think I learn one every day. By the way, I'm writing something about white shoes after Labor Day tomorrow. Funny!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLazy Writer

Oh—now I feel sick to my stomach! I’ve never even heard of a Present Participal phrase. Ugh—more research; more edits.
Aside from most of what you listed—thanks for the list, by the way—I’ve learned that one *—* em dash/ellipsis per page is okay—not twenty—or more…
—not too good with rules—

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjbchicoine

I like your list and the way you phrased the rules--especially 1-3. Hee!

I read your posts regularly, and I think you have an outstanding blog. I believe you're going to make it, and "aspiring" is just a temporary part of your title: author.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn VanderMeer

Great post! I agree and am right there with you on all except for the present participal thingy (which I'm afraid to look up if to find I'm a major abuser). :)

The things I had to learn (besides some you listed)?

That head hopping angers most people.

Having a character glare, scowl, smile, frown, etc, every time the camera shines on him or her is a very bad thing.

Starting off with background or characters hanging out, drinking coffee, and discussing their lives in general (as a generous but subtle infodump) is still frowned on as bad varmin.

Be wary of reminding readers of some other novel. This includes the dead looking guy at school who swoops in and saves your main character from getting squashed by a big mean suv. <- I almost did that without thinking about a movie I watched recently.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Kariaxi

I think we have to learn all the rules...so we can learn when to break them! But I have known authors (although there are few) who came in, wrote that novel knowing NOTHING about the biz, and sold it. Sure, it required a lot of revisions, but they had that certain spark. Maybe sometimes we learn so much it takes that spark out of us?

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie Faris

Thanks, but I agree with jbchicoine.. I feel ill. I'm gonna have to go through my entire MS with the red pen... *sigh*
Thanks for the post anyway. My biggest sins are have got to be the dialogue tags... and a few sprinkled PPP's.
I am going to have respectfully disagree on the prologue though. Many excellent novels (first time authors and not) contain them.. i think it depends on their use.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJm Diaz

I dislike new Green Day. :( They are way, way too political for their own good now, and I think they sold out. Sorry!!!

And GOD there are so many rules I have yet to learn too. Why must you remind me?!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGirl Meets Gun

T., I know the prologue one hurt me badly.

LW, I feel like I learn a new one daily as well.

JB, I know that feeling. I get it often, lol. And I forgot about ellipses and em dashes, I love those too. (And parentheses)

Dawn, I'm sending you a virtual hug for that comment. Thanks for your vote of confidence! :)

Catherine, Great additions! Thanks for stopping by.

Jm, I'm with you on the prologue. I think they can be so effective used in the right way. However, I'm scared to have one now because so many agents have said they dislike them. And it's the first impression.

GMG, No problem on the Green Day, to each her own. :) And I know the sheer volume of rules is daunting.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFictionGroupie

Love the list! I'm going to have to bone up on ppp's and I'm definitely an em dash/ellipsis abuser--when I'm commenting anyway--

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStrange Fiction

Love that list. I am going to save it.
Other 'rules' I am still learning. If you must use a dialogue tag write, he said, she said. Nothing more.
And my personal fav, "Use the word you mean, not it's second cousin."
Oh and the exclamation mark is not your friend either- really? really!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTabitha Bird

Oh we ARE on the same wavelength today! Your list is great. The stuff that trips me up is passive language rather than active voice (huge huge culprit), and structure in general. Wait, what? You're telling me a year after completeing the novel that the climax is too weak? Wait, what is climax again?

Cripes.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSierra Godfrey

Thanks for a great post. If you're a perfectionist (and I'm one too), then you should check out the AutoCrit Editing Wizard.

It finds all those pesky problems you identified. Makes editing WAY easier.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanine

Ah those "rules." :) The longer I write, the less I see them as pesky and the more naturally I'm able to incorporate them into a writing style. I enjoy learning how I can make my writing more appealing to readers. I shelved my earliest writing drafts, but looked at them as learning experiences in creativity. It's not until now, in my later books when my plotting is stronger that I'm able to concern myself with improving the techniques.

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJody Hedlund

Ugh! My biggest problem is the PPP- which I didn't know until now was a problem. Thanks, Roni! :P

I think if you keep the prologue to a key piece of backstory and don't drag it out for p.a.g.e.s it's ok. Just MHO...

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermarthawarner

I wanted to let you know that I am linking to your post from my site. Why? Because beside making me ill, and giving me night sweats as re-re-editing thoughts flutter through my mind, it was an AWESOME post :)
If you mind, please let me know, and I'll take it down.

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJm Diaz

I love your take on the rules--especially numbers one and four. Let's see what rule have I learned that made me cry: I have to write a better book, fairy dust doesn't work. :]

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTara

This is such a great list.

The image in my head of agents gathered 'round a weekly bonfire tossing queries in was really funny. Thank you.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRegina Milton

Oh so with you on the re-editing thing. My ms is still out with two agents (although I've given up hope)but is already going through yet another major edit. In fact, every single time I read it, I edit it.

And I, too, am paranoid about prologues. I know the easiest thing to do is make it chapter one, but, I dunno, it feels prologue-ish.

The best rules I have found are as follows:
Don't start with description, it's boring.
Don't start with dialogue, it's overdone.
Don't start in the middle of the action, it's confusing.
Don't start with a prologue, it's twee.

I'll let you know if I ever figure out where the book is meant to start :-)

Oh, and is it ok if I link here too?

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGem

Great post. It gives me much to think about since I'm jumping right into writing my novel. I haven't researched a lot on grammar, I just learn what I learn from critiques from my editors in the non-fiction freelance web writing I do on a daily basis.

I have plenty of fiction novels that I've started working on, but this new one has grabbed onto me and won't let me go. I'm researching all I can on the city, character, etc., but I guess I should jump into researching the actual fiction writing process as well so I'm not editing a ton once I'm done writing it.

Thanks again for posting the list. Best of luck on your writing.

April 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle Nolan

Great post. It gives me much to think about since I'm jumping right into writing my novel. I haven't researched a lot on grammar, I just learn what I learn from critiques from my editors in the non-fiction freelance web writing I do on a daily basis.

I have plenty of fiction novels that I've started working on, but this new one has grabbed onto me and won't let me go. I'm researching all I can on the city, character, etc., but I guess I should jump into researching the actual fiction writing process as well so I'm not editing a ton once I'm done writing it.

Thanks again for posting the list. Best of luck on your writing.

June 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle Nolan

I dislike new Green Day. :( They are way, way too political for their own good now, and I think they sold out. Sorry!!!

And GOD there are so many rules I have yet to learn too. Why must you remind me?!

June 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGirl Meets Gun

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>