Friday, May 27, 2011

Fiction Writing Mistakes and Solutions

A few of the mistakes we fiction writers sometimes make are listed below. It's always helpful for us to have a refresher in things we need to watch for as we continue to produce new work or revise old projects. I hope you find these things of use to you.

And, to my U.S. friends, have a happy Memorial Day.

Fiction writing mistakes and solutions:

1. Over-describing anything. Use of fewer, more powerfully descriptive words is better. A paragraph of descriptive prose can get boring.

2. Using real people. Instead of using actual people in stories, create vivid, compelling "bigger than life" but believable characters.

3. "Head hopping" or using multiple POVs in a scene. Generally it's best to choose one point of view per scene and stick with it throughout the scene. If a change of POV during a scene is necessary, make the transition smooth and obvious so the reader feels neither confused nor jolted by the change.

4. Choosing the wrong POV. The point of view in a scene belongs to the character whose goals are most at risk.

5. Undefined goals. All major characters need goals. These goals should be clearly defined. Without goals, characters are merely wandering through the pages with no purpose. Readers need to be connected to characters and their goals.

6. Poorly defined reasons for actions. A character's plan of action for reaching a goal should be clearly defined--not that all the details need to be obvious. Keeping a little mystery in the reasons for a character's actions can enrich the plot, but if readers don't understand what the character intends to do and why, they may become frustrated.

7. Long, boring transitions. Transitions between scenes should be crisp. Fill in as needed and move to next scene.

8. Giving TMI. Research your subject thoroughly, but don't attempt to convey EVERYTHING you learned to readers. Too much information can bog down the pace of the story or, worse yet, bore readers.

9. Lecturing readers. Don't lecture, no matter how passionate you are about a subject. Characters shouldn't lecture either, no matter how passionate they are about a subject.

10. Sensory deprivation. Blandness is a no-no. Enrich scenes by letting readers see, feel, taste, smell and touch their literary environment through the senses of the characters.

11. Digressing. Stick to what is important to the storyline/character definition. Don't wander off on tangents. Such a practice weakens the story and makes it unappealing.

12. Inactive scenes. Scenes should move. Dialogue, action/reaction, tension, conflict, complications, cliffhangers should all work to keep a scene moving ahead.

Have a great rest of May, and I'll see you again in June!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Monday, May 16, 2011

Step by Step Guide to Completing a Novel, Part 2

When we left off last week, our guide had gone as far as completing the first draft of your novel.

So what comes next?

After having completed the first draft of a novel and having let it set for a few weeks we dig out that lovely manuscript and begin rewrites.

11. (continued numeration from previous post) In reevaluating and rewriting your novel it will be necessary to such things as the following:

A. Critique every scene--Does it have a goal, action and reaction, a cliff hanger?

B. Delete unnecessary scenes--if they don't move the story forward, they don't belong in your novel.

C. Find character inconsistencies in such things as appearance, behavior or personalities. Do characters stay true to who they are? Do they grow? Are they stagnant and unreal?

D. Decide if scenes are in the proper order.

E. Notice whether or not all subplots are adequately resolved and all questions raised are answered.

NOTE: Rewriting a novel includes much more than the above. These are just a few examples given to clarify what is meant by "rewrites."

12. Once your novel is rewritten to your satisfaction (this may take several tries, several weeks or even several years) it is then ready for edits. In edits you go over everything with a fine-toothed comb, taking note of such things as:

A. Sentence structure.

B. Errors in grammar.

C. Errors the spellchecker may have missed such as using "their" when you really mean "they're," using the word "anxious" when you really mean "eager," "infer" when you mean "imply," etc.

D. Look for overuse of certain words such as "then" and "that."

E. Fix repetitions of the same word over and over.

NOTE: Editing a novel includes much more than these few examples, but you get the idea by what's noted here what the difference is between rewrites and edits.

Once your novel is complete you can decide what you'd like to do with it. You can query publishers whom you'd like to publish it or agents whom you'd like to represent it. You can publish it yourself, share it with a select few people or just file it away and check its completion off your bucket list.

One more thing--here a few helpful hints for reaching your writing goals.

1. Write your first draft with your heart and succeeding drafts with your head.

2. While writing your first draft, don't let yourself get distracted by going off on tangents which drastically change your storyline. It'll make your rewrites even more difficult.

3. Don't let other people's negative attitudes or lack of support for your writing hinder your enthusiasm toward completing your project.

4. If you decide to submit your novel to a publisher for consideration, don't be discouraged if you are initially rejected--with a form letter. Most writers experience rejection, even those who have gone on to earn both fame and fortune as a novelist.

5. if you're sincere in wanting to reach writing goals, never, never give up.

Best of luck on your quest to become a novelist!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Step by Step Guide to Completing a Novel, Part 1

"You should write a book," "I've got a great idea for a novel," "I've always wanted to write a book."

When people talk to me about writing I often hear from them that they've always wanted to write a book. Or they tell me they've got great ideas for stories. Or maybe someone has always told them they should write a book.

My response is always, "If you'd like to write a book, you should do it." In fact, if we have something we'd really like to do, perhaps a task on our "Bucket List," we should do it.

Often times, however, the new writer doesn't know where to begin. This week and next week this blog will set forth a step by step guide to completing a novel. Whether the writer wants to publish the book or just do it for the enjoyment and sense of fulfillment he'll feel from the accomplishment, this guide will help him reach his goal.

Step by Step Guide to Completing a Novel, Part 1

1. Commit yourself to accomplishing the goal.

2. Study every book you can about the writing craft.

3. While reading and studying craft books, write everyday.

4. Use ideas gleaned from your study of writing books to help you prepare to write your first draft.

5. Complete as much research as you feel is necessary before you begin to write your book, but don't include everything you've learned in your book. TMI for the reader.

6. Fully develop your main characters, and develop minor characters as much as necessary.

7. Write an outline, synopsis or chapter summary so you have a guide for your storyline.

8. Keeping your research, character sketches and outline close at hand, begin writing your first draft.

9. Write every day whether you are inspired to do so or not. If you look upon completing a novel in the same way you regard any other job in your life, your chances of success are greatly increased.

10. Once you've completed your first draft, set it aside for at least several weeks.

Part two of this guide will appear here next week (the week of May 15). Hope to see you here again then. :-)

Have a great week!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author