This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
----------------------------------------------------- Blogger Template Style Sheet Name: Scribe Designer: Todd Dominey URL: domineydesign.com / whatdoiknow.org Date: 27 Feb 2004 ------------------------------------------------------ */ /* Defaults ----------------------------------------------- */ body { margin:0; padding:0; font-family: Georgia, Times, Times New Roman, sans-serif; font-size: small; text-align:center; color:#29303B; line-height:1.3; background:#483521 url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg.gif") repeat; } blockquote { font-style:italic; padding:0 32px; line-height:1.6; margin:0 0 .6em 0; } p {margin:0;padding:0}; abbr, acronym { cursor:help; font-style:normal; } code {font:12px monospace;white-space:normal;color:#666;} hr {display:none;} img {border:0;} /* Link styles */ a:link {color:#473624;text-decoration:underline;} a:visited {color:#716E6C;text-decoration:underline;} a:hover {color:#956839;text-decoration:underline;} a:active {color:#956839;} /* Layout ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #wrap { background-color:#473624; border-left:1px solid #332A24; border-right:1px solid #332A24; width:700px; margin:0 auto; padding:8px; text-align:center; } #main-top { width:700px; height:49px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_top.jpg") no-repeat top left; margin:0;padding:0; display:block; } #main-bot { width:700px; height:81px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_bot.jpg") no-repeat top left; margin:0; padding:0; display:block; } #main-content { width:700px; background:#FFF3DB url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/bg_paper_mid.jpg") repeat-y; margin:0; text-align:left; display:block; } } @media handheld { #wrap { width:90%; } #main-top { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } #main-bot { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } #main-content { width:100%; background:#FFF3DB; } } #inner-wrap { padding:0 50px; } #blog-header { margin-bottom:12px; } #blog-header h1 { margin:0; padding:0 0 6px 0; font-size:225%; font-weight:normal; color:#612E00; } #blog-header h1 a:link { text-decoration:none; } #blog-header h1 a:visited { text-decoration:none; } #blog-header h1 a:hover { border:0; text-decoration:none; } #blog-header p { margin:0; padding:0; font-style:italic; font-size:94%; line-height:1.5em; } div.clearer { clear:left; line-height:0; height:10px; margin-bottom:12px; _margin-top:-4px; /* IE Windows target */ background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat bottom left; } @media all { #main { width:430px; float:right; padding:8px 0; margin:0; } #sidebar { width:150px; float:left; padding:8px 0; margin:0; } } @media handheld { #main { width:100%; float:none; } #sidebar { width:100%; float:none; } } #footer { clear:both; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat top left; padding-top:10px; _padding-top:6px; /* IE Windows target */ } #footer p { line-height:1.5em; font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:75%; } /* Typography :: Main entry ----------------------------------------------- */ h2.date-header { font-weight:normal; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; font-size:90%; margin:0; padding:0; } .post { margin:8px 0 24px 0; line-height:1.5em; } h3.post-title { font-weight:normal; font-size:140%; color:#1B0431; margin:0; padding:0; } .post-body p { margin:0 0 .6em 0; } .post-footer { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; color:#211104; font-size:74%; border-top:1px solid #BFB186; padding-top:6px; } .post ul { margin:0; padding:0; } .post li { line-height:1.5em; list-style:none; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/list_icon.gif") no-repeat 0px .3em; vertical-align:top; padding: 0 0 .6em 17px; margin:0; } /* Typography :: Sidebar ----------------------------------------------- */ h2.sidebar-title { font-weight:normal; font-size:120%; margin:0; padding:0; color:#211104; } h2.sidebar-title img { margin-bottom:-4px; } #sidebar ul { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:86%; margin:6px 0 12px 0; padding:0; } #sidebar ul li { list-style: none; padding-bottom:6px; margin:0; } #sidebar p { font-family:Verdana,sans-serif; font-size:86%; margin:0 0 .6em 0; } /* Comments ----------------------------------------------- */ #comments {} #comments h4 { font-weight:normal; font-size:120%; color:#29303B; margin:0; padding:0; } #comments-block { line-height:1.5em; } .comment-poster { background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/list_icon.gif") no-repeat 2px .35em; margin:.5em 0 0; padding:0 0 0 20px; font-weight:bold; } .comment-body { margin:0; padding:0 0 0 20px; } .comment-body p { font-size:100%; margin:0 0 .2em 0; } .comment-timestamp { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif; color:#29303B; font-size:74%; margin:0 0 10px; padding:0 0 .75em 20px; } .comment-timestamp a:link { color:#473624; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:visited { color:#716E6C; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:hover { color:#956839; text-decoration:underline; } .comment-timestamp a:active { color:#956839; text-decoration:none; } .deleted-comment { font-style:italic; color:gray; } .paging-control-container { float: right; margin: 0px 6px 0px 0px; font-size: 80%; } .unneeded-paging-control { visibility: hidden; } /* Profile ----------------------------------------------- */ #profile-container { margin-top:12px; padding-top:12px; height:auto; background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/scribe/divider.gif") no-repeat top left; } .profile-datablock { margin:0 0 4px 0; } .profile-data { display:inline; margin:0; padding:0 8px 0 0; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; font-size:90%; color:#211104; } .profile-img {display:inline;} .profile-img img { float:left; margin:0 8px 0 0; border:1px solid #A2907D; padding:2px; } .profile-textblock { font-family:Verdana, sans-serif;font-size:86%;margin:0;padding:0; } .profile-link { margin-top:5px; font-family:Verdana,sans-serif; font-size:86%; } /* Post photos ----------------------------------------------- */ img.post-photo { border:1px solid #A2907D; padding:4px; } /* Feeds ----------------------------------------------- */ #blogfeeds { } #postfeeds { padding:0 0 12px 20px; }

Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, September 21, 2014

10 Things that Red-Flag a Newbie Novelist

by Anne R. Allen

Beginning novelists are like Tolstoy's happy families. They tend to be remarkably alike. Certain mistakes are common to almost all beginners. These things aren't necessarily wrong, but they are difficult to do well—and get in the way of smooth storytelling

They also make it easy for professionals—and a lot of readers—to spot the unseasoned newbie.

When I worked as an editor, I ran into the same problems in nearly every new novelist's work—the very things I did when I was starting out. 

I think some of the patterns come from imitating the classics. In the days of Dickens and Tolstoy, novels were written to be savored on long winter nights or languid summer days when there was a lot of time to be filled. Detailed descriptions took readers out of their mundane lives and off to exotic lands or into the homes of the very rich and very poor where they wouldn't be invited otherwise.

Books were expensive, so people wanted them to last as long as possible. They didn't mind flipping back and forth to find out if Razumihin, Dmitri Prokofitch, and Vrazumihin were in fact, all the same person. They were okay with immersing themselves in long descriptions and philosophical digressions before they found out what happened to Little Nell.

The alternative was probably staring at the fire or listening to Aunt Lavinia snore.

But in the electronic age...not so much. Your readers have the world's libraries at their fingertips, and if you bore them or confuse them for even a minute, they're already clicking away to buy the next shiny 99c book.
Whether you're querying agents and editors or you're planning to self-publish, you need to write for the contemporary reader. And that means "leaving out the parts that readers skip" as Elmore Leonard said.

Agents and readers aren't going to want to wade through a practice novel. They want polished work.

All beginners make mistakes. Falling down and making a mess is part of any learning process. But you don’t have to display the mess to the world. Unfortunately easy electronic self-publishing tempts us to do just that.

But don't. As I said two weeks ago, it takes the same amount of time to learn to write as it did before the electronic age.

Here are some tell-tale signs that a writer is still in the learning phase of a career.

I'm not saying these things are "wrong". They're just overdone or tough for a beginner to do well.

1) Show-offy prose

Those long, gorgeous descriptions that got so much praise from your high school English teacher and your critique group can unfortunately be a turn-off for the paying customer who’s digging around for some kind of narrative thread or reason to care.

People read novels to be entertained, not to fulfill the needs of the novelist. If you're writing because you crave admiration, you're in the wrong business. The reader's right to a story—not the novelist's ego—has to come first.

If there's no story, no amount of verbal curleques will keep the reader interested. Give us story first, and then add embellishments. But not too many.

Also, even though it may be really fun to start every chapter with a Latin epigraph from Ovid's Metamorphoses, unless it’s really important to the plot, this will probably annoy rather than impress readers.

Ditto oblique references to Joyce's Ulysses or anything by Marcel Proust. People want to be entertained, not take a World Lit quiz. (And yes, I went there myself. Originally, every chapter title of The Gatsby Game was a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nobody cared.)

2) Head-hopping

Point of view is one of the toughest things for a new writer to master. Omniscient point of view is the hardest to do well, because it leads to confusion for the reader.

But a lot of beginners write in omniscient because they haven't mastered the art of showing multiple characters' actions through the eyes of the protagonist.

But be aware that third-person-limited narration (when you're only privy to the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist) is the norm in modern fiction (with first person a close second in YA.) If you use anything else, your writing skills need to be superb or you'll leave the reader confused and annoyed.

And you'll red-flag yourself as a beginner.

3) Episodic storytelling

I think nearly every writer's first novel has this problem. Mine sure did.

I could never end it, because it didn’t actually have a single plot. It was a series of related episodes, like a TV series—the old fashioned kind that didn't have a season story arc.

Critique groups often don’t catch this problem, if each episode has a nice dramatic arc of its own.

Every piece of narrative has to start with an inciting incident that triggers ALL the action in the story, until it reaches a satisfying resolution at the end. It's called a story arc.

If you don't have a story arc, you don't have a novel. You have a series of linked stories or vignettes. But novel readers want one big question to propel them through the story and keep them turning the pages.

The writer who blogs as Mooderino has a great post on why we want to avoid episodic narrative, even though it worked with some classics like Alice in Wonderland.

4) Info-dumps and "As you Know Bob" conversation

When the first five pages of a book are used for exposition—telling us the names of characters, what they look like, what they do for a living, and details of their backstories—before we get into a scene, you know you're not dealing with a professional.

Exposition (background information) needs to be filtered in slowly while we're immersed in scenes that have action and conflict. This takes skill. The kind that comes with lots of practice.

Another big clue is info-dumping in conversation, often called "as-you-know-Bob":

"As you know, Bob, we're here investigating the murder of Mrs. Gilhooley, the 60-year-old librarian at Springfield High School, who may have been poisoned by one Ambrose Wiley, an itinerant preacher who brought her a Diet Dr. Pepper on August third…."

Thing is, Bob knows why he's there. He's a forensics expert, not an Alzheimer's patient. Putting this stuff in dialogue insults the reader's intelligence, since nobody would say this stuff in real life. (In spite of the fact you hear an awful lot of it on those CSI TV shows.)

5) Mundane dialogue and transitional scenes that don't further the action.

All that “hello-how-are-you-fine-and-you-nice-weather” dialogue may be realistic, but it’s also snoozifying.

Readers don’t care about “realism” if it doesn’t further the plot. As James Patterson, the bestselling author in the world says, "realism is overrated." Readers want "just the good parts."

That also means skipping the trip from the police station to the crime scene and the lunch breaks when nothing happens except the MC doing some heavy musing and doughnut chomping.

Ditto the endless meetings or arguments where people come to decisions after tedious deliberation. Those are an exception to the rule of "show don't tell." Let us know the outcome, not the snoozerific details.

Just make a break in the page and plunge us into the next scene.

6) Tom Swifties and too many dialogue tags

The writer who strains to avoid the word “said” can rapidly slide into bad pun territory, as in the archetypal example from the old "Tom Swift" boys' books: "'We must run,' exclaimed Tom swiftly."

They were turned into a silly game in the 1960s, promoted by Time Magazine, which invited the public to submit outrageous Tom Swifties like:

"Careful with that chainsaw," Tom said offhandedly.

"I might as well be dead," Tom croaked.

So we don't want to go there by accident. Bad dialogue tags may have crept into your consciousness at an early age from those Tom Swift, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. The books were great fun—I adored them myself—but they were written by a stable of underpaid hacks and although the characters are classic, the prose is not.

"Said" is invisible to the reader. Almost any other dialogue tag draws attention to itself.

Very often the tag can be eliminated entirely. This allows your characters to speak and THEN act, rather than doing the two simultaneously.

Not so swift:

"We must run," exclaimed Tom swiftly.

Better, but awkward.

"We must run!" said Tom, sprinting ahead."


"We must run!" Tom sprinted ahead.

7) Mary Sues

A Mary Sue is a character who’s a stand-in for the writer’s idealized self, which makes the story a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author, but a snooze for the reader.

Mary Sue is beautiful. Everybody loves her. She always saves the day. She has no faults. Except she’s boring and completely unbelievable. For more on this, check out the post on Mary Sue and her little friends I wrote last month.

8) Imprecise word usage and incorrect spelling and grammar 

Unfortunately, agents and the buying public aren't your third grade teacher; they won’t give you a gold star just to boost your self-esteem.

Spelling and grammar count. Words are your tools. 

If you don’t know the difference between lie and lay or aesthetic and ascetic and you like to sprinkle apostrophes willy-nilly amongst the letters, make sure you find somebody who's got that stuff under control before you self-publish or send off your ms. to an agent.

Nobody is going to "give you a break" because it's your first novel. Practice novels belong in a drawer, not the marketplace. If people are spending their money and time on your book, they deserve to have a professional product.

Electronic grammar checks can only do so much. And they’re often wrong. Buy a grammar book. Take an online course. Not everybody was a good student in elementary school, but you'll need to brush up on your skills if this is going to be your profession. Even a good editor can’t do everything.

9) Clichéd openings

People who read a lot (like agents and editors) have seen some things so often they immediately get turned off. Even if it's a perfectly good idea. The problem comes when a whole bunch of people have had the same good idea before you.

The most common is the “alarm clock” opening—your protagonist waking up—the favorite cliché of all beginning storytellers, whether short story, novel, or script. There’s a hilarious video on this from the comedians at Script Cops They say, “78 % of all student films start with an alarm clock going off.”

Here are some other openers too many writers have done already:

  • Weather reports: it's fine to give us a sketch of the setting, but not more than a sentence or two.
  • Trains, planes and automobiles: if your character is en route and musing about where he’s been and where he’s going, you’re not into your story yet. Jump ahead to where the story really starts.
  • Funerals: a huge number of manuscripts—especially memoirs—start with the protagonist in a state of bereavement. If you use this opening, make sure you've got a fresh take.
  • Dreams: we're plunged into the middle of a rip-roaring scene, only to find out on page five that it's only a dream. Readers feel cheated.
  • "If only I’d known…" or "If I hadn't been..." starting with the conditional perfect seems so clever—I used to love this one—but unfortunately a lot of other writers do too.
  • Personal introductions: starting with "my name is…" has been overdone, especially in YA.
  • Group activities: don’t overwhelm your reader with too many characters right off the bat. 
  • Internal monologue: don’t muse. Bring in backstory later.
  • The protagonist looking in the mirror describing herself: In fact, you don't need as much physical description of the characters as you think. Just give us one or two strong characteristics that set them apart. Let the reader's imagination fill in the blanks.
  • Too much action: Yes, the experts keep telling us to start with a bang. But if too much banging is going on before we get to know the characters, readers won't care. 
If you use one of these openers in an especially clever and original way, you may get away with it. But be aware they are red flags, and many people won't go on to find out what a great story you have to tell.

For more on this, Jami Gold has a great post this week on how to avoid cliches in your opener.

10) Wordiness

There’s a reason agents and publishers are wary of long books. New writers tend to take 100 words to say what seasoned writers can say in 10. If your prose is weighty with adjectives and adverbs or clogged with details and repetitive scenes, you’ll turn off readers as well.

Remember a novel is a kind of contract between writer and reader. If you are writing to fulfill your own needs, not those of the reader, you're breaking that contract. They'll feel cheated.  And they will probably let you know.

If you’re still doing any of these things, RELAX! Enjoy writing for its own sake a while longer. Read more books on craft. Build inventory. You really do need at least two manuscripts in the hopper before you launch your career.

And hey, you don’t have to become a marketer just yet. Isn’t that good news?

For more on this, Sarah Allen has a great post this week on Top 7 Mistakes that Make Your Writing Look Unprofessional.

How about you, scriveners? What mistakes did you make when you were starting out? As a reader, what amateurish red flags make you start to feel nervous about buying a book?


I have a new boxed set! My three Boomer Books are now available in one boxed set. The intro price is only 99c!
That's 33c a book!
 Available at Amazon USAmazon UK, Amazon CA, Inktera, Nook, Kobo, Scribd and iTunes 

The Boomer Women Trilogy

The Leaders of the Twenty-First Century was the original title for the manuscript that branched into three and became Food of Love, The Lady of the Lakewood Diner and The Gatsby Game. It would be a terrible title, of course, because it sounds too dry and pretentious for a bunch of comedies. 

But the phrase has excellent comic credentials. It comes from Mickey Mouse himself. The original Mickey Mouse Club TV program always signed off with the inspiring proclamation that the show was "dedicated to you, the leaders of the twenty-first century!" 

When my little girlfriends and I giggled in our basement "rec rooms," mesmerized by the addictive new show, it never occurred to us the announcer wasn't talking to us as much as to our brothers. We didn't see any women leaders around us, but somehow, the magic of Disney was going to propel us all to new heights. My best friend planned to be a doctor and I wanted to be a famous writer. Or maybe princess of the world. 

The heroines of these three novels, Congresswoman Rev. Cady Stanton, Princess Regina of San Montinaro, diner owner Dodie Hannigan Codere, rock star Morgan le Fay, and sporting goods CEO Nicky Conway are powerful yet vulnerable (and I hope funny) women who represent those Baby Boomer women who watched the Mickey Mouse Club with me. 

Our mothers, who fought WWII on the home front only to be lured out of the workplace to a life of suburban housewifery, often saw our generation as entitled and self-involved. But as my character Dodie Hannigan said in the first version of the manuscript: 

"We're called Boomers, but it wasn't us that did the booming—that was our parents. We just showed up nine months later and got plunked in front of those brand new TVs." 

We were born at the dawn of the television age to become Madison Avenue's most coveted "target demographic." Advertising campaigns and kid-centric programming made us the first generation to be given a collective identity separate from family or community. 

And for good or ill, they made us who we have become: women who have demanded to be treated as equals by the other half of the human race. 

I know it's still something of a taboo to write novels—especially romantic comedies—about women "of a certain age," but Boomer women have been breaking rules since the Mickey Mouse Club proclaimed our destiny. I hope you'll enjoy their stories.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Blogger CS Perryess said...

Ahoy Anne,
Excellent list. Thanks. I'd add the problem of the Vast & Sprawling Front Porch. So many of us in our newbie stage seem to need to extend that exposition for dozens of pages before introducing an inciting incident. I don't know whether it's a matter of early impressions (it's around page 40 that the 1st kid in children's classic, The Lion,, Witch & the Wardrobe actually finds the wardrobe), or the need to flop about in our novel's world before getting cracking. But it's not just the newbies & tales from another time -- I just finished the 2nd book of a recent phenom in the YA writer world. It took 130 pages to get off the porch. Her first book started with a bang (& won countless well-deserved awards), but the second simply didn't start for a very long time.
Thanks again for a fine post.

September 21, 2014 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--Thanks for the great comment! "Get off the Front Porch!" might make a great blogpost all on its own. Openers are so tough for newbies--and obviously, for some professionals too. Thanks for those examples. Many editors say that the first thing they have to do with a newbie novel is lop off the first three chapters.

September 21, 2014 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Melodie Campbell said...

This is a dynamite blog, Anne! Sending my students to it, at class this week.
Yes, they need to hear this from someone other than me.
As usual, it is always worth the time to read your blog.

September 21, 2014 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Molly Greene said...

Fabulous, hilarious, too close to home. I may have escaped the alarm clock opening, but only because I never thought of it. Thank you Anne!

September 21, 2014 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Jan Ryder said...

A good list, Anne. Btw, I've grabbed my copy of your boxed set. It looks wonderful (was about to use an exclamation mark, but could almost feel Elmore Leonard's disapproval). I'm looking forward to reading your work.

September 21, 2014 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent list of examples. Dialogue tags were a struggle for me. Flowery, descriptive prose and epic storytelling - not so much!

September 21, 2014 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Raquel Byrnes said...

This is a great list and a truly helpful post. Totally Tweeting. :)

September 21, 2014 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melodie--Happy to help out your students! I wonder if anybody's done a study on how many times a student has to hear something before it finally settles in the brain. At least ten, I'd say.

Even now, sometimes a light bulb will go on in my brain and I'll say, "Oh, that's what they mean by 'avoid Robinson Crusoe openings'" or whatever. It can be something I've heard hundreds of times, but somehow it never "clicked in."

September 21, 2014 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Molly--Thanks! I actually called one of my first stories "Snooze Alarm". Guess what? It never got published. :-) Thanks for the tweet, too.

September 21, 2014 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jan--Oh, I hope you enjoy it! These books have a lot of mystery, but they're not classic whodunnits, so my publisher and I haven't worked out exactly how to market them. The one thing they all have is comedy and strong women, so I hope this new format will reach the right readers.

September 21, 2014 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--I think it depends entirely on what you read. If you read classic Sci-Fi, especially the old pulp fiction titles, you're going to see a lot of bad dialogue tags. If you read lots of Victorian lit, you're going to think flowery prose is quite the thing. And if you read contemporary literary fiction, you may think a novel with the structure of a piece of Ikea furniture in the box is just fine. It may be--but you have to be on staff at the New Yorker to get it published. :-)

September 21, 2014 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Raquel--Thanks much! I really appreciate the tweet, too!

September 21, 2014 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne, a super post! Glad you pointed out the problems with e-grammar checkers. Ditto spell checks. They disagree as do dictionaries. There is no one perfect solution to the essential nuts and bolts of language. That is where the writer's taste and judgment come in.

Love the cover of your boxed set. Yummy-licious!

September 21, 2014 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Kristina Serrano said...

All things writers need to remember! Just shared on Google+ and Twitter! :)

September 21, 2014 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger Laurie Boris said...

Excellent post, thank you. It's pretty much exactly what I see in the work of newer authors. I've done it myself. We learn, we learn...

September 21, 2014 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Phyllis Humphrey said...

Anne: In my current WIP I did actually lop off the first three chapters. And that's after I'd had fourteen books published. My first scene established the conflict and moved the characters to action, but when I got to chapter four I knew the book had found its true beginning - the previous was really backstory. So, we can always keep learning. Thanks for the good reminders.

September 21, 2014 at 12:18 PM  
Blogger Tamara Marnell said...

I think you hit the nail on the head with the imitation of the classics. English teachers idolize the classics, so people grow up being told that Dickens/Hawthorne/Joyce/etc. wrote better than anybody else. It's only natural that young writers think that "good writing" means "reams of convoluted, hard-to-follow purple prose."

But it's not just the classics. Yesterday I finished reading my first (and probably last) Nora Roberts book. This novel was published in the late '80s, so she might have changed her style since, but good gravy--she was in a different person's head in every paragraph! Now we're the police captain, now we're the hot detective, now we're the hot detective's partner observing the sexy psychiatrist, now we're the sexy psychiatrist, now we're the dispatcher observing the hot detective observing the sexy psychiatrist...and now we're the janitor. But just for one sentence. Don't ask me why.

September 21, 2014 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--Thanks. I agree that relying on spell checks and other tech can only do so much. And they can make awful mistakes. I'm so glad you like my cover. I thought the exploding cupcake was so fun. And so many covers are dark, I though the light and bright one would stand out.

September 21, 2014 at 12:24 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

What Melodie said. In spades. If I were teaching writing, this is the first resource, your writing blog, I'd direct my students to. (Yikes what a sentence!) Great as usual, Anne. So many good things to watch out for and NOT OVERDO or DO at all. Loved it. My downfall was never wordiness since I write so short but internal monologue openings? Yep, guilty as charged. I do this in my new WIP so will have to be sure it serves the story before it keep it. Thanks again for the excellent advice.

September 21, 2014 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kristina--Thanks a bunch for the shares. We really appreciate them!

September 21, 2014 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Laurie--We were all newbies once. And we all made these mistakes. The problem comes when people stay stuck on square one of the writing game and don't learn to move forward from newbie-hood.

September 21, 2014 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger David Rheem Jarrett said...

I agree with everything you say here except your comments regarding third person omniscient. There is no way, using third-person-limited, than an author can describe the inner thoughts and feelings of any character but that of the narrator, and in any novel in which character development is important, thoughts are as critical as actions.

September 21, 2014 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phyllis--Great point. You don't have to be a newbie to run into trouble with openings. This is why we have editors. My novel Ghostwriters in the Sky started too late in the story. It took a good editor to say, "Write an opening chapter. This needs to start earlier." It totally changed the novel.

September 21, 2014 at 12:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tamara--Very interesting observation! Lots of bestselling contemporary writers seem to get away with the head-hopping thing. But I can't read them. If there's head hopping, I don't buy. Unless there's a really powerful omniscient storyteller voice, the way Carl Hiaasen does it.

I think editors are demanding more coherent storytelling these days, even from the big names.

80s writing is as old fashioned now as the Victorians were to Hemingway. Things have changed a lot in the electronic age.

September 21, 2014 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Judy Dunn said...

My biggest blunder (of many!) in my first two unpublished middle grade novels was the I-must-get-the-character-from-point-A-to-point-B-to-point-C thing. Mistakenly thinking the more detail the better, I had the phone ringing, the character picking it up, the conversation (in detail, of course), the character hanging up, frowning, walking to the bedroom door to open it (okay, maybe I am slightly exaggerating here, but, man, is the reader asleep yet?). We learn so much writing those first few bombs. :)

September 21, 2014 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger R. A. Meenan said...

Great post. I was definitely a part of the "info dump" world in my early drafts of this novel. XD

Couple of comments.

On Show-Offy Prose… Showy prose comes in more than just extended descriptions. I picked up a self published book recently. The main character shows off by giving us a steady stream of her immense, thirteen year old wit, scattered through close (but occasionally broken) third person POV… we even get crazy witisms while she’s falling down a 40 foot cliff and landing in a river when she can’t swim. That gets extremely distracting. I may end up putting the book down because of those distractions.

And on Weather Report Openings… A friend of mine recently had someone tell her that her book’s “weather reporting” opening was horrible and cliché. Except that it wasn’t. She mentioned that it was dark, but she called it “forbidden darkness” hinting at the character’s possible rule breaking. Pretty much everything she mentioned led back to the main character and the world he lived in. It wasn’t just scenery reporting. It was an insight into the world she was in. Careful not to immediately throw away “weather reports” just because the weather happens to be mentioned.

Also, I'm surprised you didn't mention "Character wakes up and wanders around lazily" opening in the bad openings section. I see that all the time in newbie novels.

September 21, 2014 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--I remember reading the opener of a novel to my first workshop at at big writers conference. Five pages of internal monologue. But it was full of jokes! I thought they'd love it!! Um, nope. :-)

September 21, 2014 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

David--Omniscient POV is considered very old fashioned in anything but epic fantasy or space opera in this century.

One of the skills a contemporary writer needs to learn is how to show character through a limited POV. Almost all the great literary writers of the last 100 years learned this. You can change the POV character from chapter to chapter, but not within a scene. It's not easy, but it can be done.

The only contemporary literary (character-driven) novel I know of that isn't written in third or first person limited is Joshua Ferris's And Then We Came to the End. That's a tour de force written in first person plural. He gets in everybody's heads by writing as "we". It's wonderfully clever, but it would be very hard to duplicate.

September 21, 2014 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Judy-Oh I had so much trouble with that. I wrote so many unnecessary, plodding scenes. It was such a revelation when I finally realized I could just jump to the next interesting part!

September 21, 2014 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

RA--I know sometimes comic novels can get too caught up in the jokes and forget about the plot. I know I've done that on occasion.

As I said, a weather report is okay if it's only a couple of sentences. I'm opening my new book with a comment about the weather. It's very important to the story, so I relate.

I include "Character Wakes Up" in the warning against the "alarm clock" opener. It doesn't have to be an actual physical alarm clock. 78% of newbie fiction starts with the character waking up. As I say, we don't want to do this. Check out the link to the Script Police video on the subject. It's hilarious.

September 21, 2014 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Patricia said...

This is so helpful as a tick-off list for my writing. I did most of these when I started writing and wish I had this "list" back then.
Thank you.

September 21, 2014 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger Meg Wolfe said...

"Ohhhhhhhhhh!" she groaned, sobbing madly. "Will I ever get it write?"

Great post, great list; will refer to it frequently as I attempt to crawl out of newbiehood ;)

September 21, 2014 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Patricia--I'm glad it works as a check list. Yeah, we all do them. Most of us had to find out by trial and error. And humiliation. :-(

September 21, 2014 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Meg--LOL. We all relate. We've all been newbies!

September 21, 2014 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger Collette Cameron said...

Cringing as I read some of those. Guilty of several in my first novel. Ugh!

September 21, 2014 at 3:52 PM  
Blogger Maria D'Marco said...

Send...send...send...send...send...off goes your wonderful post to every new author I'm editing. Hip-boots aside for over-writing, what I see most often in recent edits are 40+ word sentences. I'm mentally gasping for air while spinning through three or four different thought processes by the MC.

btw-this isn't the first multi-send of your blogs and I'm certain it won't be the last. Keep'em comin'!

September 21, 2014 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Colette--Join the club. The only writers who have never done any of this are the ones who never actually write anything.

September 21, 2014 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

Fabulous Anne- painful but admirable at once, like watching a Miss USA pageant from the gutter.
Now I should buckle down and create a heat-map, showing which of these are red-hot dangerous for which genre, which more a casualty of what-must-be. For example, the "well Bob" sometimes has to happen in the forensic thriller where stuff is just way beyond the reader. And Purple Prose... :: hand raised :: yeah, epic fantasy has to go there.
Having said that, just two more things. Having NO idea what openings were already considered cliche, I thought it was simply splendid that Judgement's Tale opened... with a funeral. And I must say this- if gold stars were a feature of your third grade year you went to school NOWHERE near me!
Thanks again Anne.

September 21, 2014 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Maria--You're not the first editor I've heard from today. I guess this one is hitting all the big points you have to make with all your clients.

Of course I've also had a flurry of unsubscribes. Some people don't want to know that they're still newbies. But you can't be a pro if you haven't been a newbie first.

Maybe I'll have to add a few more points to the list. Long sentences are so annoying. But I tend to write them myself. I love those em dashes and parentheticals.

Thanks for sharing the posts!

September 21, 2014 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Wm--Welcome Back! I hope you had a great trip to Africa.

Actually, you don't need to put that "as you know Bob" stuff in dialogue unless you're writing a screenplay. You put it in your protagonist's head. Or another POV character's Or have somebody read it. Easy peasy.

Epic fantasy has rules of its own. As I said to David above, omniscient POV is pretty standard in the genre, and people are going to talk with lots of purplish archaisms. And they will think forsoothly. So I'm sure your prose works great for your genre.

Funerals aren't a no-no. They just have to be especially interesting to be compelling, since readers see so many. But if you have a GoT type funeral, where half the attendees get murdered, readers probably won't be bored. :-) Different genres have different expectations.

I was talking about people who grew up more recently than some of the rest of us. :-) The "self-esteem" movement of the 80s and 90s really messed with the expectations of a lot of kids growing up then.

September 21, 2014 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger Liz Crowe said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 21, 2014 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger Liz Crowe said...

I'm not a newbie anymore but I just got wrist smacked by an editor for too many dialogue tags in a new manuscript. I pick a new bad habit for each one and this one's curse was a whole ton of "he said she said." I have had funerals in several of my books as moments of conflict between survivors that worked pretty well. Thanks again as usual for your insight Anne and for sharing your success with the rest of us!

September 21, 2014 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Liz--I know that feeling when an editor catches us overdoing something. We feel like naughty children. But aren't we lucky to have editors? We all pick up bad habits.

Funerals are like weddings--major milestones that are always powerful in fiction. Nothing wrong with using them.

But the funeral opener can be problematic if we don't do something new and different with it. Thanks for the tweets and shares!

September 21, 2014 at 8:12 PM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

Fabulous post! I've read these things in manuscripts so many times...

September 22, 2014 at 12:46 AM  
Blogger Pip Connor said...

Hey Anne, how's it going? Thanks for this weeks blog. I am currently doing a massive re-edit, rewriting of my story/book because of pretty much every reason you have listed. I have named it first book syndrome, I found that I was to wordy and believed that my writing was really clever, when in fact it was over complicated, repetitive and I hate to admit this, but pretty drab. I wish I had read this about 18 months ago. LOL. I do have one question regarding 'Cliché Openings', would it be acceptable to have the first chapter as a suicide note? No more than two pages, then in chapter 2 move straight to the antagonist and then for chapter 3, that's when you meet the writer (protagonist) of the note. Also would I get away with hand writing the note and then scanning the note itself into the first couple of pages of chapter 1, or would it be better to type the note? Sorry to bother you with this, but you're my go to person on all things for new writers. I hope you don't mind. I will be blogging about this at some point this week hoping to gain some kind of insight. I know you're very busy, and apologise for asking. Again thanks for this weeks post, I look forward to next weeks. Take care, but above all, stay cool. Pip

September 22, 2014 at 2:43 AM  
Blogger J.M. Lominy said...

It's a pleasure to have found you blog; wonderfully informative.

September 22, 2014 at 3:55 AM  
Blogger Shah Wharton said...

I've cmd a little too close for comfort on at least three of those, but I am at least aware of these now to know they're no-go! :)


September 22, 2014 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lexa--Thanks. I've done them many times too. :-)

September 22, 2014 at 9:27 AM  
OpenID liebjabberings said...

I bookmarked this one for reference. Kudos for making it funny, too - might hurt a little less.

Head-hopping is my #1 turnoff - and I know a new writer I'm trying out hasn't made it to 'readable' by the end of a page or two. When I've gently (VERY gently) mentioned this to said writer, the only acceptable reaction should be 'OMG! I messed up on that one! Thanks for pointing it out.'

POV control is extremely important for readability. Given that, I am willing to follow for a while to see if you have an interesting story to go along with it. Some people sneak past mastery by writing in first person, or single third, but it shows the minute they allow more pov characters into their writing.

The first step is to realize you're doing the bad thing; the next step is to acquire the craft to stop doing it. That's where those 10,000 hours go.

Unfortunately, many writers never accomplish the first step: they cannot see their own writing dispassionately, and never master the craft. They post on the forums, wondering why, since they have 18 novels out for sale, their daily intake is in the single digits.

Alicia (who hopes she's taken a successful stab at these)

September 22, 2014 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Sarah Allen said...

This is such a great list!! The Tom Swifties made me laugh :) And I didn't think about cliche openings for my post, but that's a good one! Thanks again so, so much for the shout out!

Sarah Allen
(Writing Blog)

September 22, 2014 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Pip--Welcome to the club. As I say, new writers tend to make all the same mistakes. I've made them all myself.

As far as opening with a suicide note--it has been done--I think 13 Reasons Why opens that way--but I don't think it's been done to death. At least I haven't seen any agents complaining they've read 50 suicide-note openers in a row.

But don't use a photo of handwriting as your opener. HUGE formatting problems there. Very expensive to reproduce and impossible to send electronically so it will read well. Just type it. Otherwise any agent would delete it. Don't make them jump through hoops.

September 22, 2014 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

J.M.--Welcome! Thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself.

September 22, 2014 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Shah--As I said, we all do them. It helps to be aware of them.

September 22, 2014 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alicia--I'm with you on the head hopping. It's a huge turnoff for me. I feel as if the author is being lazy and making me to all the work because she doesn't want to bother to learn the basics. I like your phrase "POV control". That's what it is: keeping your writing under control, so you don't present chaos to the reader.

I agree that it's really sad when people write multiple novels with all these mistakes and actually put them out in the marketplace. They often hire very professional cover designers, so you have to hit the "look inside" to find out this is just newbie practice writing.

It's why so many reviewers won't touch indie books, which is a shame.

September 22, 2014 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sarah--Thanks! Your post makes a great "book-end" for mine!

September 22, 2014 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger florence cronin said...

Anne, thanks to my "filter" this just came in the mail (Monday) ... Okay, yes, yes, yes ... I think we all do it, have done it,and need to be wary of it in the future.

The schools of thought on the dialogue tags is the one issue I want to address. For all others I can only say ... did that, been there.

I have been told so many times, I want to weep, DO NOT put simply "said,"

Why do you put "said" when you can come up with a clever tag?

Gees to please !! I actually started reading my favorite and well known writers to search for the damn things. And you know what? Most of them just say ... said :)

September 22, 2014 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Florence--I've heard it too: there is an odd meme going around the writing blogosphere telling people to avoid "said.". DO NOT LISTEN TO IT. These people are ignorami.

"Said" is invisible. Anything else draws attention to itself and takes you out of the story. You can used the occasional "hissed" or "shouted", but "wept" will not work. Most people do not speak while they are weeping. (Unless they're Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias) They speak before or after.

So don't say say, " 'I'm dying, Mortimer,' Leticia wept." Say: "'I'm dying, Mortimer.' Leticia dabbed at her tears with a threadbare handkerchief."

September 22, 2014 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

I found myself laughing out loud at some of the reminders of the "problems" I had with my first novels. Nonexistent POV, rambling, lovely descriptions that took the reader nowhere but on a romp through my oh so creative mind, the perfect, flawless protagonist, based on my 20 something self, of course. So much ego, so little story. Yikes! I have learned. I have, really. I have. Thanks for a great post.

September 22, 2014 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--We've all been there, haven't we? I think taking English lit classes may distort things for us. We think authors are so special. We're taught to admire quirky things in the classics, so we figure if we're quirky, we'll be admired, too. We forget the part about how you have to learn to be a storyteller first.

September 22, 2014 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger A.K.Andrew said...

Excellent post, and thankfully the points you mentioned were ones that I'm now familiar with.Phew! That Creative Writing Certificate didn't go to waste after all:-) I particularly liked your take on POV. I've always though omniscient would be real hard to do well, which is why I haven't tried. But getting that word count down was I think the best point. It used to break my heart when I had to cut treasured sentences, but now I love to cut out chunks of writing. It's so satisfying to know "I don't need that part"

September 22, 2014 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

A.K.--One of the things that most helped my writing was a contest our local writing club had every year: 500-word limit flash fiction. I'd always write a 1200 word story and have to cut it down. It really taught me how to identify unnecessary words.

As far as POV, omniscient has its place. It's the storyteller's voice. And it works when you want to sound archaic, as in epic fantasy. When a strong voice is telling a "tale" as storytellers did for millennia, you have the feeling of sitting around a campfire listening to the storyteller--who is very much part of the experience.

It also works for comedy--as if you're listening to a stand-up comic telling the story of the duck that walked into the bar. Again, the teller is part of the story.

But in modern fiction, the 'teller" is supposed to be invisible. We are more involved with the story and closer to it because we are "with" the main character. Most modern readers prefer that. Unless they want that epic fantasy or stand-up comic feel.

September 22, 2014 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

Ahhhhh, where do I begin?

1} Early on I would write artsy-fartsy prose to show off my grasp of the English Language. Now, since most literary fiction has artsy-fartsy prose and I despise literary fiction, I save that kind of stuff for my blog.

2} Never did head hopping, although I'm experimenting with it in my novellas.

3} Had problems ending stuff (still do to a certain degree) but never as bad as some people have it.

4} Info dumps were the bane of my early writing trials and tribulations. Now, the info dumps are spread further apart and no "As you know, Bob" touch any of my stories.

5} I used to have the problem, although it revolved around pointless sex (yes, sex can be pointless). Now, not so much.

6} Guilty as charged early on. Now, when we blog.

7} Sort of, only polar opposite, in that my Mary Sue gets a can of whoop-ass inflicted on her instead.

8} Guilty as charged, although now I use a dictionary and other knowledgeable people for help.

9} I've come close to using a clichéd opening, in which my MC is talking on the telephone. However, in that very short conversation, the basic plot of the story is told.

10} Used to, but since wordiness drives me slug nutty as a reader, I don't do it as writer. Only as a blogger.

Father Nature's Corner


September 22, 2014 at 5:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G.B.--I love it! LOL. Do all this stuff on your blog and you can totally get away with it!! Hey I even quoted Tolstoy in the opener and nobody's called me on it.

I forgot about the telephone opener. I think it might be a cliche, but not a dreaded cliche. Just a 'this better be good if you're going to go there again' kind of cliche. Great comment!

September 22, 2014 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Embarrassing true story: first novel, new critique group. A guy read through my first ten pages and said, "This is all exposition." I went home and looked up "exposition" in the dictionary. Yes, I've come a long way and still have a looooong way to go!

September 22, 2014 at 7:12 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--I think we've all done that too. I sure did.

I learned about exposition in an episode of Moonlighting back in the 80s. They did a hilarious send-up of Taming of the Shrew and the guy who played Lucentio, who opens the play, stopped in the middle his monologue and said something like "Why do I get stuck with all the exposition?" Laughter is the best teacher!

September 22, 2014 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger Pip Connor said...

Hey Anne, thanks for the advice, I really am grateful. Look after yourself. Pip

September 23, 2014 at 2:17 AM  
OpenID greenlightlady said...

Thank you, Anne, for helping us newbies in a humble and humorous way. I've pinned this post to read again and again.

Today I finished reading your e-book, How to Be a Writer in the E-Age, for the second time. I love how you admit your own struggles and hard lessons as well as the victories. It gives me hope.

Did you really have a bunch of unsubscribes because of this post? If so, someone needs to remind newbies that writers need thick skin to survive. It hurts to have a critique done on your first WIP. But it's worth it if you want to improve your writing.

Now I'm going to read the links to find out more bad (good) news about newbies.

Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

September 27, 2014 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

greenlightlady--Thanks so much for letting me know our book has been helpful for you. I'll let Catherine know. It's important to both of us.

We've all gone through the same struggles. Some of us are just a little further down the road.

Yes, we had 16 unsubscribes on Sunday, but we got 23 new subscribers on Monday and Tuesday, so we lost the people who didn't need to be here and got some who are in it for the long haul. We welcome them warmly.

Remember every superstar was a newbie once and keep on keeping on!

September 27, 2014 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger JamesGrantGoldin said...

Lots of great advice. However--always a however, eh?--I seem to read columns like this several times a week, with almost identical points of advice. And while I do think that decent spelling and punctuation should be more common, some of the criticisms, like multiple POV and even opening with long disquisitions on the weather and other warnings seem to me to boil down to the notion that readers are stupid and so writers should be, too. Now, most of us are not very good. And writing styles change, like models of cars. But just because some things are more difficult to do well doesn't mean that they should never be attempted. If you look at TV, you don't see cooking shows about people serving hot dogs from a cart. Nor do you see sports shows about people walking down stairs. Readers didn't care about your Gatsby quotes? Maybe you didn't use them correctly or maybe you chose the wrong quotes or maybe your readers weren't too smart. Doesn't mean they were right or that your idea was wrong. Great writers (a category that doesn't include me; really, hackwork would be a lofty goal) don't write for their readers. They might write for one imaginary reader, but they write the books they need to write, and if they do it well, or well enough and with a passion, then readers will find the work. Now, having bloviated about that, how do I explain the fact that best-selling authors who obviously connect with zillions of readers have a writing style that I find unreadable? (I put down "The Da Vinci Code" halfway through the first sentence.) Why is bad writing--writing that is bad the standards of your column--successful? I don't know.and I wish I did. Might make for a good blog or something.

September 28, 2014 at 11:03 PM  
Blogger Roger Castle said...

Thanks, Anne. 'scues me . I gotta go reread my MS.

September 29, 2014 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Roger--Hi neighbor! So great to see you here. People are telling me this is a helpful checklist. Remember it's stuff we all do when we're starting out.

September 29, 2014 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

James--I don't think readers are stupider than they used to be. But we do have less reading time.

This is a post about what makes you look like a newbie. It doesn't say you can't look like a newbie. If you don't mind taking that risk, go for it!

September 29, 2014 at 10:25 AM  
OpenID ileandraxraven said...

Heh, great list!
Funny how many of those things I still see occasionally in mainstream, big-six published books. But I can certainly see why joe-public-just-starting-out-author can't get away with it.
*le sigh*

October 7, 2014 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ileandra--Oh, yeah. You'll see this stuff all over the place, especially in the classics. That's how we learned it in the first place. But those writers got in before the styles changed. Or they're so famous they can hit the bestseller list with their 3rd grade homework. I ditto your sigh.

October 7, 2014 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Nicole Noffsinger said...

The Great Gatsby killed me in High School. I ended up buying Cliff Notes just because it was so long and drawn out. By the time it ended, I wanted to shoot Daisy and the whole cast of characters. Lol. Being a newish author I can say I have committed a few of these and it is a learning curve. Great blog and I will be referencing this one often as I write.

October 16, 2014 at 5:13 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nicole--Welcome! LOL. Actually, The Great Gatsby is a novella, only 50,000 words long. But it's very complex in its storytelling. English teachers used it for high school students because it's short, but it's not easy. They used to choose George Elliott's Silas Marner for the same reason, but Silas Marner was about an old man, with no appeal to teens. I hope they don't teach either of them to kids any more. You need to be older to get into them. Absolutely: writing, like reading, is a long learning curve!

October 16, 2014 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger ryan field said...

I love this post so much. If every writer read these simple things we would never be offended with excerpts on social media again. Some of the things I see sometimes. I know everyone starts somewhere, and I would never discourage anyone, but there comes a time when people either "get" it or they don't :)

March 19, 2015 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ryan--Thanks a bunch! Everybody makes these mistakes when they start out. But as you say, they need to learn to leave them behind if they want to be accepted as professional writers.

March 19, 2015 at 12:34 PM  
OpenID phoenixrainez said...

Thanks for all this very useful information. I am in the process of editing my second novel and reading through these useful tips has inspired me to make changes to quite a few chapters especially the first two where I introduced my characters.

April 19, 2015 at 6:35 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

phoenix--I'm so glad this post helped you with your editing! That's what we do it for. Introducing characters is one of the toughest parts of writing a novel.

April 19, 2015 at 9:19 AM  
OpenID maureenoleary said...

I wish everyone writing novels, not just newbies, read this. Great post. Thank you. When I was starting out, I was perfect in every way. Yeah. Not so much.

April 28, 2015 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Maureen--Oh, yes! Me too. The first time I got a call from an agent and she offered suggestions, I said "No. Absolutely not. That book is finished. I don't want to change a thing!" I was soooo clueless.

April 28, 2015 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Mary Jean Adams said...

I see a lot of newbie and self-published novelists (more on this in a moment) who use their first novel to take a stand on something. That's fine, if you're trying to attract an audience that cares about the same things you do - and sees the world through the same filter. It's not-so-good if you're writing in a genre like romance where your reader could care less about "issues". For example, I write 18th C Colonial/PreRevolutionary historical romance. I could make all my characters fervent patriots, but I have more fun creating characters that are a bit ambivalent/uncertain at times. I suspect my readers enjoy them more, too, since they are more realistic.

The ONLY reason I said self-published earlier is because I see it more often in self-published novels - including some very good ones. I suspect it's hard to find a publisher/agent if you insist on using your writing as your personal soap box.

July 19, 2015 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mary Jean--VERY good point. Soap-box novels need to be written by highly trained professionals if they're going to work. So a first novel that's got an agenda is usually going to scream "amateur" at the reader. And yes, most agents and publishers won't touch a novel that's going to alienate half the potential readership with partisan or crusading rhetoric.

July 19, 2015 at 11:16 AM  

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home