What’s Wrong With This Picture?

July 8, 2009 at 3:19 PM | Posted in Editing, Writing Advice | 2 Comments
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For today’s post I decided to take an old one from my blog and refurbish it. The post was aimed at fanfiction writers, but I realized that a lot of newbie writers and fanfiction writers run into the same obstacles.

It’s hard being a new writer, especially when you come into it late in the game. You make a lot of mistakes and a lot of times, there isn’t anyone to tell you what you’re doing wrong. And the people that do tell you (especially if you’re learning through posting on fanfiction sites) are  mean, rude and not all together sensitive about your ego or feelings. So I compiled a list of things that I’ve noticed are common in new writers. They’re all easy fix its, so if you think you’re doing any of these things, don’t panic. :) Practice makes perfect, after all.

Introduction/Prologue/Whatever you want to call it: First of all, if you’re introduction isn’t significantly different or separate from your first chapter, don’t separate it; it makes the beginning choppy. For example:

Anika stared at her surroundings in fear. She had never seen a place like this. The trees were immense and glowed silver in the light. She winced when she stumbled over a root, barely escaping a fall. Her head ached and she hadn’t been able to stem the bleeding.

Stay awake, she thought to herself. Stay. Awake!

But it wasn’t long before she found a seat on a large, protruding root. Soon after, her eyes closed and she fell asleep.

Chapter One

When she woke up, night had fallen and a light rain had started to fall.

Now, what was the point separating the introduction from the first chapter. Chapter one was a direct continuance of the introduction and the break only served to make the reading choppy. Instead, if you need a break between the two, use a line break. Clean and simple.

Commas are your friend…sometimes: Commas really help out when writing. They prevent you from sounding long winded and stupid. Learn them. Love them. Use them. But not too much! If you don’t know whether or not to use commas follow this simple rule: Write first, comma later. Read the chapter once you’re done  out loud to yourself, and if you need a comma, use it.

Voice: I cannot stress enough how important the voice of your story is. The character whose point of view the story is told should come through in the narration.  If the character is a thirty year old teacher, I want to be able to tell that she is an adult, a professional and not a snotty teenager. Really. It’s important.

“You guys!” she yelled into the dark. “Stop it! This is so not funny! I’m really scared!” She crossed her arms over her chest and scowled. This was so ridiculous. She was alone, cold and could be concussed. And no one cared? They were just going to leave her by herself? Like this? What was she gonna do?

How old do you think Anika is? Fourteen? Fifteen? Maybe seventeen? No. She’s thirty years old. But you can’t tell at all by the voice that comes through the writing. She sounds like a terrified teenager whose friends routinely prank her. How many thirty year old women do you know who have friends that prank them by knocking them unconscious and dragging them to the woods?  The language that you use in your story needs to reflect that of the character – if she’s sophisticated, kind, intelligent – all of that needs to come through when you’re telling your story.

Consistency: Also, keep the voice constant. Don’t start with the voice of a tween and suddenly decide to switch to the voice of an adult. Your characters should be so vivid and well thought out that they have a personality and that personality should continuously come through the writing. If you’re changing voices sporadically it means that your character lacks some depth and you don’t know who they are yet. Understanding your character, their traits, desires, motivation, etc is very important to having a fluid, engaging and believable story. In addition to that, keep the tense the same. If you’re using past tense, stick with it. The same goes for present, future, first person, third person, limited and omniscient. Don’t do this:

Anika’s legs trembled violently. I do not know what I’m going to do. She swallows thickly and closed her eyes.

Okay, what the hell just happened? I went from third person past tense, to first person present tense to third person present tense. Pick a tense and point of view and stick to it. It maintains fluidity and consistency in your story. Okay? Thanks.

Beta: This topic has been covered extensively on the TWFT blog, but only because it’s very, very important. Beta readers are there to help you, they improve your writing, and catch things that you don’t. Find one, use them and above all make sure they’re doing their job. If people are reading your story and are not pointing out grammar errors, plot holes, and inconsistencies, your beta has not failed you.

These are my two cents. I hope you enjoyed the read and any suggestions you have for future posts would be much appreciated! :)



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  1. Isn’t that what a beta reader is supposed to do? Point out grammar errors, plot holes and inconsistencies? If not, what SHOULD they be looking for?

    • Haha, I think that was a typo. I corrected it, though.

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