Saturday, March 27, 2010

Anne's Writing Tips

I'm continuing with common writing problems. The first five were posted last Sunday.

6. Fear of telling:

This is a big one. Show don't tell has been hammered into us for so long that we are terrified of divulging any information without showing. But some telling is okay. Telling is bad when it would be more powerful to show us, but feeding us a sentence or two of information is perfectly okay.

7. Word repetition:

This seems harmless enough, but it's about as annoying as a dripping faucet. Repetitions words, especially unusual words, can stop the reader, or at least distract the reader. Sometimes repetition can't be helped, but try to avoid it whenever possible.

8. Allowing reader to make assumptions and write her own story:

if you don't give reader adequate information, she will begin filling in the blanks with her own story. Suddenly the reader is trying to balance the story she is making up, with the story on the page.

9. Lack of conflict:

Here's another one we hear all of the time, yet it's also a rule that many new writers ignore. Try to establish the conflict in first scene. When I point out this problem to writers, I've been told: My story isn't an adventure, or isn't a thriller, or isn't suspense.

Doesn't matter.

I just thought of this, so I haven't tested it, but I'm thinking you should be able to come up with a pitch for any book, any television show, any movie, after fifteen minutes of reading or viewing. Probably less. I'm going to start testing that to see how long it takes on average.

What is this story about? That's the question the reader is asking, that's the question she wants answered so she can sit back and enjoy the ride.

10. Not establishing main story line in opening, or at least close to opening

This goes hand-in-hand with establishing conflict. Let us know what the main character is up against as quickly as possible. If you don't, the reader will once again go off on her own, trying to figure it out. You're writing the story; not the reader.


  1. My first drafts always over-show. A critical part of my revisions involve figuring out what I can convert to telling. It took me a long time to realize that too much showing can bog a story down.

  2. Bill, YES to bogging down the story! Exactly!!!

  3. Bill's right. It may take waay too long!
    Re: # 10, am relieved to realize I do that with my first sentence - but worry if it is too abrupt.

  4. Bernita, sometimes that can be very effective.

  5. These are all good! #10 is especially useful to think about. I always want to lay out clues which I will cleverly explain later.

    After the reader has fallen asleep from boredom and lack of relevance!

  6. I always want to lay out clues which I will cleverly explain later.



  7. I tell a lot in my first drafts. I think this is because my first drafts really are more of a makeshift outline/attempt to plot. Or not. Some days I feel as if I know nothing about my writing process. ;-)

  8. Oh, 6 & 8 are me! Ta for these. great stuff!