Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shamelessly stealing from Sierra Godfrey...

Hey, I'm a professional thief, what did you expect?

I saw this link on Sierra Godfrey's blog (I'm a new follower, if you haven't seen her site go check it out!) and knew I had to do my own top 5 known writing problems. Here they are, in all their glory:

Problema Numero Uno
Transitions. I'll know I've progressed as a writer when I can seamlessly cross fictional time and space without it feeling awkward or too sudden. It's proven especially difficult when I need to pass large gaps of time - several days or weeks - in a paragraph or less. I'm an impatient writer and I don't spend much time on the details, so trying to find a way to adequately bridge even a transition from morning to night has proven blechy (technical term).

Problema Numero Dos
Letting the plot overwhelm me. It's like trying to braid Rapunzel's hair. You know you've got a lot to work with, and the braid has to stay smooth and consistent throughout, which means you can't have bumps or loose sections or dropped hairs or random new hairs in the middle, and you can't just forget about a whole strand of the braid because it's grown too inconvenient to juggle. It's easy to feel like a story has overtaken me 20K plus words in. I get so caught up in one plot that I'll realize I've dropped a whole subplot, or I've forgotten to keep my character's attitudes and directions in mind, or I'll look back at my outline and go "oops."

Problema Numero Tres
 Keeping up good pacing. The WIP I'm currently whipping has a (hopefully) scary and suspenseful plot, which means I've got to be especially mindful of pacing and impact. At the outset I assumed this would be easy, mainly because I'm so easy to scare, but it's proven much more difficult. I understand how to make things scary using noise and visuals, but translating that fear to the written word is a lot harder than you'd think. Try writing a scary short story and see if it doesn't come out sounding contrived or comical. I have the P-i-C, who is an expert in all things horror, spot check me from time to time to make sure I'm not veering off in either C direction.

Problema Numero Cuatro
 "Looking" and "smiling." Sierra mentions this as one of her writing faux paus, but I definitely recognize the tendency in my own writing. I think there's a compulsion in most unseasoned writers to fill out dialogue with physical actions and dialogue tags. While I do think it's necessary to set a scene, I tend toward overinforming the reader. The nice thing about books is that you as the reader get to imagine a lot of what is going on, so sometimes less is more.

Problema Numero Cinco
Predictability. I didn't realize this was a problem until the P-i-C was reviewing this weekend and said "looks good, but I knew that was going to happen." It hadn't occurred to me to think that the reader might know it would happen. From the writer's perspective I needed it to happen, so I didn't dwell on it. But his comment gave me pause. What else was I doing that he could see coming? One of my biggest pet peeves as a reader is when an author will purposefully make their character stupid to an event just to drag out the plot reveal when I've already figured it out the first time it's mentioned. Stephanie Meyers did it in New Moon when Bella is trying to remember her conversation with Jacob about werewolves and it drove me CRAZY. I wanted to call Bella on her fictional telephone and say "he's a werewolf! You know it, I know it, get on with it already!" So to hear that I might be doing the same thing caused me some serious concern, gentle readers.

That's all the self-flagellation I can take in one day. What about you? What are you working on working out of your writing?


laurel said...

I'm trying to not be so parsimonious with details of where the story is going. I'm trying to dribble out important backstory elements in this rewrite, rather than just dumping at the end.

Oh and letting my character be a big jerk when that's her impulse, instead of having her quash those impulses. Removing sources of help is what makes a climax most high-stakes, right?

beth said...

One thing that helped me from being overwhlemed (loved the Rapunzel's braid analogy, btw) is to use Scrivener. It shows you how many words you have in a chapter rather than in a page--so I don't really have a concept of page numbers. When I compile the manuscript and see how big it really is, I get intimidated, but otherwise, it seems manageable.

JEM said...

I'll definitely have to check Scrivener out, thanks, beth! I'm always looking for fun authorial tools.