Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Novice Writer Mistakes

As I mentioned on Monday, I spent last weekend at the LDStorymakers Conference.

I spent:
  • 11 hours in class or other instruction
  • 5 hours in Boot Camp
  • 8+ hours socializing / networking
  • 4 hours driving
  • not nearly enough time sleeping
It was a long, intense couple of days, that I wouldn't trade for anything. Well, maybe some things: like already knowing everything about the writing craft. But then I would have missed out on getting to know so many wonderful people.

I had a hard time deciding what classes to take. There were so many wonderful options. For the first breakout session, I was torn between two options. One that I was interested in, and one I felt like I should go to. Heather Moore's class was titled, "How to Avoid the Common Mistakes of a Novice Writer."

I wanted to convince myself that I had already learned most of those "mistakes", and therefore allow myself to go to the other class. When I mentioned that to a man I sat next to, he laughed. That's when I realized he was probably right. (sigh)

At least some of what I heard was a review. But I also learned some valuable information. Mostly, Heather invoked a passion in me, a new motivation that I can do this.

A few things she covered:
  • Flashbacks. Avoid them, especially in the first pages/first chapter.
  • Info dumps. Don't give too much information up front. Historical fiction needs more description in the beginning than most, but not too much. We need action. We need to know what is going on now, not yesterday or last week or ten years ago. Fiction is movement, description is static. (We want fast pace movement people!)
  • Hooks. If possible, there should be a hook in the first sentence. Next is the first page. Make the reader have to turn the page. End the first chapter, and each subsequent chapter, with another hook. Your goal is to keep them reading to the wee early hours of the morning.
  • Point of View. Don't head hop between your characters within the same scene. A couple of book resources listed were Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card, and The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them by Jack Bickham (he also wrote Scene and Structure). I haven't read these yet, but plan to soon. Also, when picking whose point of view you will use, make sure to pick the right one. Use the character with the most to add to the scene, or in some cases, with the most to loose. What is at stake? Who will show that the best?
  • Formatting. It really does matter. Agents do not want to see pretty pink paper, or scripty font. The just want to read your story (hopefully past the first five pages, but that's a whole other class). Use standard 12 point type (Times New Roman). Double space lines. 1 inch margins all around. No underline or bold font, use italics for emphasis.
Michael De Groote, a reporter for the Mormon Times attended the class, and wrote a fun article about it here.

Heather Moore is the owner of Precision Editing Group. She edits a lot of novels, from advanced writers down to the novice beginner. A common mistake Heather sees in manuscripts is those of only a first draft quality. The process of learning to write is not quick and easy. If we are serious about it, we have to put forth the effort. Day after day after day.


David J. West said...

I meant to go to that class but went somewhere else and of course I can't remember offf th etop of myhead which one it was.

Thanks for the summary, its always good to get those things reinforced.

MT said...

Hey, this was supper helpful. I'll link my readers to this post tomorrow. :) The nice thing about being a novice? We probably won't get worse, just better!

M. Gray said...

I wanted to go to Heather's class, too, but there were so many choices!! I went to Laura Rennert's on pitching agent. It was good, too.

I'm glad you had a great time. I did too. :)

Laura Fabiani said...

These are all excellent points. I stress them in my workshops. They are good reminders for novice and current writers. Thanks so much for sharing! And thanks for visiting my blog.

Jewel/Pink Ink said...

Great ideas, Kim. I didn't go to that class, so thanks for the recap.

I was looking at your sidebar, at your goals and progress tracking. Good for you, girl! Rooting for you.

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

Great post. These are things all writers, no matter how long you've been at it, needs to remember. Thank you!