Writer’s Digest, March 2005 article, Mistakes that can kill your Writing Career, provided suggestions I have taken to heart. See if any are helpful for you:
6. Writing is a fulltime job and an excuse to avoid reading. Read all the time whether personal choices, book club reads, or new authors from your genre. Not only will reading enhance your vocabulary, you will keep fresh. Choose whatever interests you, but don’t stop reading.
7. Submit your queries in a professional manner: no glitter, confetti or Day Glo envelopes. If you have clips from local newspapers, mention those—but don’t include them.
8. Clichés and vague writing are killers. Texting and Facebook have reduced vocabulary to acronyms and pieces of sentences — handy for those media but lazy writing for a professional.
9. Have confidence in your submissions but avoid self-aggrandizing by comparing yourself to a bestselling author even if you know in your heart you are “that” good.
10. I heard somewhere (thank you, Larry Brooks) that well selected back story must advance the plot. Why is it included in your chapter? If the inclusion is essential to advancing your story, is the placement timely? Are you revealing too much too soon?
To sum up the advice most meaningful to me: Use ACTION verbs instead of forms of “to be.” What does my reader gain from reading my novel, article, or short story? How are characters “transformed?” Do readers want to read more of your work? Ahhh— continue striving, fellow writers.
On a flight last week, I opened a March 2005 issue of Writers’ Digest and gleaned advice for myself. Perhaps one or two thoughts might resonate for you, fellow writer. Several tidbits jumped off the page:
- Keep the work momentum going steadily, even if it’s inching along. (Sandra Dark) She mentions a writer who committed to 5 minutes a day to begin her novel. The result was a full novel one bite at a time. Although she started with 5 minutes, before long her own momentum increased the minutes. The point for me is to WRITE EVERY DAY even if it’s only a few minutes.
- “I personally believe that perspective or Point of View is the number one style problem for most writers.” (Bob Mayer) Changing POVs without alerting the reader is a common writing mistake. Evaluate each scene checking for POV consistency. Start a new chapter at switch if necessary. We know what we mean; the reader may not.
- RE: Queries and Submissions — the number one mistake is disregarding details in the query letter which implies sloppy writing. Ask for manuscript formatting guidelines. Most publishers have them on their websites or will mail them to you. (Robin M. Hampton)
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Nancy Kress in Writers Digest, September, 2002, wrote an article on clarity. I will quote or paraphrase her statements, but, for more information, go to writers digest.com for the article.
“Readers don’t have access to the author’s mind. They see only what’s on the page. The essence of writing is to become the reader.”
Clarity is essential for readers to want to continue reading your novel or article. Visualize what you have actually written to notice holes in your storyline. Authors conceive a scene or chapter in their own minds vividly, but may not have filled in the gaps that the reader doesn’t have on the page. This virtue is not often applauded by the professional world of editors, reviewers and publishers, but, without it, characterization, a fascinating story,and a terrific narrative arc will go undiscovered. They will be lost.
The following is a common way we authors violate the clarity in our own minds:
Pronouns: use of them must have direct references. Who is he? Who is speaking now? Back up and make certain the reader understands who is speaking or walking toward someone. This failure of clarity is seen when more than one person is in a scene. When we use pronouns willy-nilly, it’s because we know who is involved. Be certain that the reader knows, too.
More on the topic of clarity in my next post.