Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Newbie Mistakes

On Sunday, I had a couple of friends over for cocktails and hottubbing in order to celebrate my having finished BTPM. Yeah, I needed some relaxation after the outline...then pounding out the new ending to BTPM, etc. Anyway, I got into this long conversation with one of my girls about writing. I worked with her a couple of years back, and we both independently (and secretively) started writing books. Mine was COTM of course...and hers was a children's book.

Anyway, she just had a baby... and well, for one reason or another, she's never moved much further than the "idea" stage.

We started talking about writing and then she said, "I just can't grasp how you do it." (?) She was referring to everything that it takes to write a book...knowing how to write dialogue...coming up with descriptions of things...how to plot it out and make the characters interact. She just doesn't get it.

So, here we have two wannabe writers -- starting out at the same time. One never gets past the concept stage and some scribbled notes... The other is a writing maniac. I would guess I've written about 300-325K in the past two years. So...what happened there? What made my experience so different from hers? That's one for the heavens, cuz I just don't know.

Anyway, I started talking about how I've been on a complete learning curve since I began. I told them both about all of the HORRIBLE mistakes I made and misconceptions I was under when I first began. So... thought I would list some of 'em. (g)

1. Punctuating dialogue. LOL. I couldn't do it to save my life. I have examples where my dialogue looks something like this: "I don't want to go! she said angrily" or "I don't want to go". She said angrily. I don't know what happened, but I swear I was sober and drug-free. (g)

2. Show/Tell. I remember the first time someone said that to me. *blink blink blink wha?* I had no clue. This is probably the hardest thing to kick, so I'm not gonna fault myself too much... but man, what a concept to try to grasp when you're first starting out.

3. Passive writing. Okay, I'm not FULLY at fault for this one. I blame this on some of the writing that's allowed to hit the shelves. (g) After all, if I read that stuff, naturally I'm going to write that way. Right? Now when I read stuff like this, I want to throw the books at the wall.

4. Gerunds... yeah, don't get me started. I still don't fully grasp why they're so bad. (g)

5. Headhopping/POV slips. Yanno, I don't think I was ever a headhopper (thank God). I did have occasional POV slips, but nothing too major. I simply had to learn that a character can't see their own face turn red. (g)

6. White space. OH LORDY. I look at my original pages of COTM and wonder if I knew where the return key was back then. LOL. I have paragraphs in that MS that run over a page long... yeah, return, Jen...return!

7. Writing is easy. LMAO. Cha, right! Okay, so at times it is... but usually, the first few sentences in any writing session are unbelievably hard to get out. There are times when words come at the rate of about 10 every half hour... a sentence here...a word there... it's like pulling teeth. The biggest lesson I've learned to date is that writing is hard work, and that you have to push yourself to sit down during the non-creative moments. If I only wrote when the mood strikes me, I'd never get anything accomplished. The great thing is that usually when I force myself to write, my mood catches up. :)

8. Publication will be a piece of cake! *snrk* I remember thinking to myself that I had decent writing chops (post learning how to punctuate dialogue, that is) and that I shouldn't have a problem hitting the shelves. Oh Lordy. Yeah... 'nuff said.

9. Finding an agent would be quick and easy. ROFL. When I heard about people querying their book for close to two years, I thought...NO WAY is that gonna be me. I can't wait that long! lol. Yeah, I ate those words. (g) Granted, I'm only at about 7 or 8 months... but still! I thought I'd have it all wrapped up by New Year (g). (Hey, 3 months is enough, right?)

10. I will write historicals. HA! Yeah, I'm not sure historicals are my thing. I think that's pretty clear, actually. My only question is _what_ genre will I end up in? I love them all so. (g) My goal is to be housed in the fiction section...simply because they won't be able to nail down _what_ I am. (g) Count 'em off... historical (IF I finish it), suspense/mystery, YA, fantasy, and one that might turn into a romance. LOL. Heavens. And I'm only a couple of years into my writing career. Someday, a western could bubble up for all I know. Egads. (g)

Okay...so those are some of my huge mistakes/misconceptions. Please tell me I'm not alone. (g)


Maggie said...

Yeah I still don't know what a gerund is...

Jen said...


LOL -- yeah, sometimes I have to stop and really think about it. (g) Oh well -- as they say, you can break any rule as long as you do it well. :)


Hélène B said...

Guilty on all fronts, LOL.

Jen said...


LOL...YAY. (g) Good to know I'm not alone.