Everybody wants to get published. Once my first manuscript was completed, I didn’t hesitate to send it out. I knew it had a few grammatical and structural errors. There’s no way you can catch them all. That’s what an editor is for, right? My story was so good, or so I thought, an agent would jump on it and have their editors correct my mistakes.
Well, that wasn’t exactly what happened. I’ve written numerous posts outlining the errors I made in that first very, very rough draft. When you begin your writing career, odds are you don’t know what you don’t know. Writing a publishable piece of work isn’t easy.
I received a rejection letter from every agent I submitted to with the exception of one, who I like to think saw a promising new author in that mess somewhere. She did reject my work as well, but instead of sending a form letter, she praised what was right and pointed out what was wrong.
Her list was long, and I was more than a little shocked once I realized how rough that first draft really was. She used words like head-hopping, writtenese, and dragging dialogue. That didn’t even include the grammatical and structural errors. You know, the ones the editor was going to correct :-), although she pointed those out too.
Do your homework and remember, that first draft is the first draft. Get it done, then get it good.
I remember my middle sister as a child. She would often be found sitting in the corner with her nose in a book. She didn’t play well with others. Well to be honest, she didn’t want to play with anyone at all. Her friends were imaginary. I always thought that she was a little strange, and she probably was, but she is also one of the most talented writers I know.
You haven’t heard of her or read any of her work. Why? Because she writes in a vacuum. I have encouraged her for years to reach out and join the writing community.
She is an introvert, like most of us who seem to enjoy the keyboard much more than a group of pretentious people. I would be okay with that if she belonged to writing groups, or had people she related to that could help motivate her to move forward with her craft.
You don’t have to interact with others face to face, at least not at first. If that’s not your cup of tea, go online. Join writing groups and form relationships with other author want-to-bes. There are some great ones out there that cater to just what you’re looking for.
I am a member of Scribophile. It’s a great site to seek critiques and suggestions from fellow writers. Members on this site operate at different levels of expertise. I have gotten some great feedback, but I have also received feedback that was not up to par. I was pleasantly surprised at the community in the group and the willingness of total strangers to help me with my work.
Romance Writers of America rwa.org
Mystery Writers of America mysterywriters.org
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America sfwa.org
I think you’re getting the picture. I was a member of Romance Writers of America and need to renew. You can get excellent information and discounts from these sites. They will keep you informed on contests, conferences, writing groups/forums, what’s selling, agents looking for new works, and information on how to improve your craft.
Hands down the best advice ever. A friend gave me a beautiful plaque that I sat on my desk at work and read often to remind myself that success was just around the corner. Failure was simply a steppingstone. I would like to share it with you today and hopefully provide some encouragement and motivation to keep moving forward.
Pursue your dreams! Prepare yourself for success! Pick yourself up when you fall! Don’t you quit!!!
I’ve shared this blog before, but it’s been a while, and a message I think needs to be heard. As new writers, we sometimes listen to everybody but ourselves. Friends and critique partners mean well, but if you let them, some will try to take over your novel and mold it into what they think it should be.
I was sitting on my couch reworking a scene in the novel I’m writing and stopped right in the middle of it. What am I doing? I asked myself. The purpose of the rewrite was to make some changes based on a critique I received from a critique partner.
The person that critiqued my book is very good at the craft, and I respect her opinion. There were others who critiqued the piece and loved it, offering a few comments here and there to correct grammar or replace a word. So who was right? The three people who loved it, or the one who thought I needed to go back and make some significant changes.
The more I looked at the changes this person suggested, the more I realized she had her own idea of the way the story needed to go, and I had mine.
With this being said, she’s made some great suggestions. Because of her, my story is more believable, my dialogue more natural, and my POV more consistent. Her critiques have been invaluable.
However, I had to remind myself that this is my story. Nobody has a better understanding of the dynamics than I do. Nobody knows it from beginning to end but me. Nobody can tell it better than me.
Weigh comments and suggestions you receive from others and ask this question. Is it making my story better or changing it into something it is not?
If you find yourself reading a sentence more than once, or adding information for clarification, that’s a red flag.
Your reader has less information than you. If you are confused by your work, you can only imagine what your reader is going through. I love a great mystery, but my writing shouldn’t be one.
It’s not the reader’s job to interpret your work. You should be clear and concise. If your writing causes a pause something isn’t working.
I have to admit I love dangling modifiers though. They are some of my favorite mess-ups. I even wrote a blog entitled ‘just for laughs’. They are funny, but not in the middle of a serious scene. You don’t have to try to hard to imagine how quickly they can pull your reader out of their suspension of disbelief.
Dangling modifiers occur when the modifier has no clear referent, and twist the meaning of your sentence in an unintended fashion.
I saw a tree walking down the street. Who knew a tree could walk 🙂
The babysitter handed out sandwiches to all the children in Ziplock bags. I just want to know how those children got in those bags 🙂
Misplaced modifiers are similar but not nearly as fun to read. As with dangling modifiers, there is no clear referent, which can lead to a clumsy and confusing sentence.
Lucy carefully studied the situation. Lucy studied the situation carefully.
Another mistake new writers make that isn’t always as obvious but makes for a clumsy sentence that will cause a pause is comma splicing.
Comma splicing is when two sentences are linked by a comma, but they don’t really work because they’re two separate ideas.
John saw the rabid fox and ran to the house to get his gun, and he forgot to eat lunch and his tummy rumbled.
What about ambiguous sentences? The sentence is grammatically and structurally sound, but the reader has no idea what you are talking about.
My older students know I’m extremely careful with my language. Is the teacher referring to age or length of time the students have been in his/her class?