Sorry for the late start. I had a doctor’s appt this morning that threw off my whole routine. Truth be told, I forgot it’s Monday. But here I am so let’s get started.
First off, a big apology to Sam. Non-fiction writers are just as important to this blog and I’m sure they have the same questions and starting dilemmas as fiction writers. Regardless of what genre or type of writing you do, I hope you can find answers and encouragement within this group. Personally I’m having a great time and can’t wait to learn more from each other.
Last week, Christopher mentioned reading his first draft through fresh eyes–as if he’d never seen it before. That is definitely hard to do. Mine is riddled with mistakes even after the third or fourth read-thru. This week, let’s show the aspiring writers out there how human and fallible we are by revealing our biggest challenges when it comes to producing a publishable manuscript. Be it fiction or nonfiction, song or screenplay, what mistakes do you find yourself making again and again? How do you identify these challenges? And are you any closer at defeating them for good?
This is a hard area to pin down because my challenges are many. I am blessed that I do not work outside my home. Besides taking care of an over-worked, ever-patient husband and two rescue dogs, my day is basically mine to do with what I want. By all accounts I should be producing much more than I am. I am a big time waster. Bad. Bad. Bad. (I am currently smacking the back of my hand with a pencil.)
But I consider laziness a personality flaw, not a challenge, so I’ll talk about the mistakes I keep making in every first draft I’ve ever done. (I hope my editor isn’t reading this, because she can surely identify at least 20 or 30 more challenges that drive her up the wall.)
Besides my shameless mutilation of the English language and simple rules of grammar, one of the first things I notice while re-reading a draft is how badly I repeat myself. I repeat myself. I repeat…
You get the picture. Like I said last week, the most important thing is to get the story down on paper. So I try (emphasis on try) to get the book down as quickly as possible. I shut off my inner critic and go to town. In other words, I dash thru it. That is if you consider a leisurely stroll a dash compared to some unnamed writers who spit out 4 or 5 books a year.
In my hurry to get the story down, I become redundant. Example: A little boy falls off a bridge into a rushing river. He manages to stay afloat until he is able to reach the safety of the shore a mile downstream.
I will write the scene thru the little boy’s eyes. Thirty pages later I forget I’ve already covered everything that needs to be covered so I retell the same story, giving the same information thru the little boy’s mother’s eyes. Then his father will tell the same story, once again giving the same rehashed information. By the end of the book, the same episode has been relived by everyone in the book, from the passerby on the bridge to the trout the little boy landed on.
During my read-thrus I do tons of slicing and dicing because I have gone over the same information for no reason other than I wasn’t paying attention as I was writing. Believe me, there are plenty more flaws and shortcomings I could elaborate on, but that’s the one that drives me crazy while editing. I catch most of those faux pas before I send in the finished work, but many have made it to my editor’s desk. Like the character who had two different eye colors. Or the woman who had 3 different last names, simply because I kept forgetting what it was and was too lazy to stop writing and look it up.
I believe there’s a special blessing waiting in Heaven for editors. They deserve it.