I don’t have a lot of experience with getting feedback before the last 12 months. Joining the NYC Midnight challenges has taught me heaps already, and all because of the feedback rendered by the contestants and the judges.
Today, I’m going to be looking at the feedback I’ve received on these stories as a barometer of the pitfalls I make in writing. We all do some of these, and there’s a fantastic blog, Jen’s Pen Den, that helps me a lot with ways of fixing these issues.
So here’s my biggest issues and how I aim to fix them…
Unnecessary Words -> -ing Transitions, The Usage of As, and -ly Adjectives
She looks down the lane, searching for her target. It isn’t long before she spots him, as he starts reaching for his gun. She sprints around the corner, ducking out of the path of the bullet as it speeds down the lane. Sighing, she props herself against the wall, trying desperately to calm her nerves. Her heart feels as if it is in her throat as she swallows her breath, contemplating what her next move will be.
You see that sentence, and instantly you see a writer that is not confident in her ability to tell a story. This is a trap I fall into frequently. When the tension is ramped up, I find that, from time-to-time, I get lazy in my storytelling. In my most recent story, The Lager Merger, it was noted that this was something I did during the most important parts of the story. It doesn’t exactly take away from the story, but if I were to lose these things it would certainly “tighten” the story up.
A great resource for you is the blog I noted above. It’s filled with great tidbits about all of these little editing nightmares. Instead, I figured, in the spirit of the “Show, Don’t Tell” ethos, I would just write a corrected version, as this is the aim I have in the future of my novel writing:
She looks down the lane. She knows that her target came this way. When her gaze falls upon him, she becomes aware of only one thing – the pistol in his hand. The gunfire echoes in the street, and she sprints to the corner of the nearest building. It just misses her. She leans against the building. Her breathing comes in rapid gasps. Her heart is a lump in her throat, and no amount of swallowing seems to abate it. She reaches for her gun and waits for his next move.
This is still not exactly a perfect example, but I believe this flows better. The sentences are shorter and easier to read, and there are fewer distractions. The more you look for it, the more the ases, ings and lys annoy you.
In the heat of NaNoWriMo, I am certain I will do this often, because it’s just easy to do when you’re in a mad rush to finish something. But I like to also be self-aware enough to pick it up whilst I’m writing, as well.
I seem to do this all the time. 8-Bit Folly, An Ocean of Memories, The Patriots, and The Lager Merger have all had criticisms about characters that were not required. I can’t quite put a finger on why I do this, but I can certainly see why it is infuriating to the readers of my stories.
In 8-Bit Folly, the extra character was Prince. I really liked the name, and I think this was the reason I kept him in the story, even though he does not drive it home in any way. The other reason I kept him involved was because it made sense that two boys would peer pressure a girl into joining them in an act of vandalism. Unfortunately, this doesn’t play on the story in any way, and his part is very much replaceable. So much so that when I rewrite it, if I can’t flesh him out more, he will not exist.
In An Ocean of Memories, I wrote my first romance, and I did the same thing as 8-Bit. I added a character that had no real purpose. He just drove home the idea that the Captain was leaving for the last time. His part was so large that it took up 200 words in a 1k-word story. That’s a decent chunk of time that would have been better suited to give more time to my main character and his memories.
In The Patriots and The Lager Merger both had characters that weren’t fleshed out well, so they both seemed unnecessary, in a way too.
So how am I going to fix this issue? Well, for the future of my novel, a little thing known as planning is going into it. Naturally, in a short space, it’s important to reduce the amount of baggage, as well, so novel writing doesn’t necessarily have the same rules as flash. Tightening the story will still be essential, though, so unnecessary characters are being ironed out before I start it.
Too much ambiguity
So this is something that I feel is something only I seem to do. But in previous stories, I’ve left too much unanswered in my stories. Sometimes I think it’s obvious throughout the story, but I’ve been told otherwise. The thing I have pinpointed that has caused this issue is that I know the story in my mind, and the clues I leave to explain myself would only make sense to someone who knows the story. It’s a writer’s worst nightmare.
What I plan on doing to fix this issue is read the story aloud when I begin the editing process. If it doesn’t make sense or is too ambiguous, then that part will be edited… a lot…
Still, again, this is an afterthought to NaNo. What’s really important that I don’t re-read what I have written in November. If I do, then the inner voice is going to go to town on editing, and I won’t finish the challenge. I’d much rather not have all this planning go out the window! 😉