A Few Common Writerly-Person Mistakes (11 to be exact)

Writerly-Person? I know. You’re ready to walk away now.

I was asked this question in a local writer’s group not long ago, and thought I’d turn it into a short blog post, because I much prefer short blog posts ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m just going to jump RIGHT IN.

  1. With very new writers, I see way too much going on in the MS, but the author not grounding the reader in any one scene. Ask yourself a few things – ONE – What is this book about? and then TWO – What MUST happen to get my character from point A to point B. And then THREE – what am I learning about my character and their journey through this action? Anything you’ve written that doesn’t very specifically relate to these questions, doesn’t need to be in your MS.
  2. If you can remove a scene from your novel, and nothing else in the novel will change, that scene needs to go away. Now I’m gonna share theย LEARN, PROPEL thing that I’ve talked about before. What do I learn in this scene? How does this scene propel my story? And then make sure that you don’t have 4 scenes that teach the reader the same thing, or too many points that propel us in the same direction.
  3. Giving a great action that shows the emotion, and then telling us the emotion. Just give us the action. Don’t tell the reader that your person is feeling frustrated. SHOW them.ย They’ll learn SO MUCH MORE about your character if you use description over just telling. (Also, you probably won’t get published)
  4. Super slow beginnings, ORย jumping into the action so fast that the reader isn’t sure if they should be rooting for the MC or not. There’s a balance. Go read a few of your favorite books that are similar to your own. What works for your novel in those openings? What doesn’t work? (write your own book, your way, but we learn so much by reading).
  5. On the note of #4. If you’re not reading, I just… I get that we sometimes have more time than others for reading, but if you want people to respect you as a writer, you need to be reading. If having a “I can’t find time to read” phase, then be a good literary citizen and use whatever sway you have to show excitement for the books you will read when you pick that habit back up. (which you’d better do pronto)
  6. Dividing up action and dialogue and then using, “HE SAID.” Why? If you have an action, that means we know who’s speaking, so you can dump the “he/she said” stuff. AWESOME! #DeletingUnnecessaryWordsFTW! On this same note – don’t write a 35 word sentence that can be done in 10 words. As an exercise, take one page from your MS and see how much you can simplify each sentence. If you don’t do that now, chances are your copyeditor will track change it later ๐Ÿ˜‰
  7. Thinking that you’ll be the next breakout and can break the rules. Is that possible? Of course. Do you want to be published? Yes? Then stop thinking this way. Assume you’re not going to be that one in a million person who writes a 140K YA contemp that will be the next best-seller. If you play your cards right, you’l have lots of books you can break rules with later.
  8. Along with #7. BE ABLE TO PITCH YOUR BOOK. I know, I know. BRUTAL, right? (On a side note, I’ve started to write my blurbs ahead of time. This helps keep me focused while writing as well as makes sure that I have a pitch that’ll work). But you need to use that hook to sell a book to an agent, that agent will use your hook to help sell to an editor, the editor will use that hook to sell to their pub company, and then the pub company will use that to sell to a distributor, who will use it to sell to booksellers, who will use it to sell to customers…
  9. Own your story. If you own your story, there is no such thing as editing too much. The only way you can edit too much is in big picture ideas when you let people talk you out of your story.ย Don’t get this confused from that thing that 8 different crit partners are having a hard time with. That crap needs to be changed.ย Know what your book is about. What you want it to say. How you want to say it. But seriously, no matter how many rounds of edits I do, I always could do more.
  10. Take your time with revisions. Seriously. Very often one tiny comment about not understanding a particular motivation is a LOT MORE than just adding a few half-sentences to clear that up. It might be pointing to a bigger problem with the manuscript. Look for the bigger problem first, if it’s not part of a bigger problem, THEN go in and make the half-sentence tweak.
  11. DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE. One thing that has been interesting knowing people who work at/for several different writing conferences is that generally the writers who have been around the longest are the nicest and most gracious. The newbie writers are the ones who are picky, frustrated, and demanding. Don’t be “that person” please.

And that’s what I have for you today. No brilliant nuggets of wisdom, just things I’ve been pondering.Funny how they all came to the surface when I should be revising…

And yes, of course there are ALWAYS exceptions.

Anything to add?

~ Jo

6 thoughts on “A Few Common Writerly-Person Mistakes (11 to be exact)

  1. Excellent words of wisdom. I always try to write my pitch at the start too. It’s about all the outlining I do, but if it isn’t a compelling pitch at that stage, the book probably won’t be either.

    1. YES! I learned this the hard way. I actually ended up re-writing one of my earlier books because every time I tried to write a query for it, the query didn’t work. At one point I realized it wasn’t the query that was the problem, it was the story I was trying to mash into the query.

  2. Very awesome Jo. Thanks for sharing it felt good to read, and think to myself… Yup. Doing that. Yup, doing that, too. Ahhh. I can do better with that.

  3. Awesome tips. I wish I would’ve seen these tips and stuff like it before I started writing. Or when I started writing. I was probably a year and a half into writing before I started reading blogs and all that and really started to learn some of these things.

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