So last night, while bored out of my mind attempting to study for exams, I randomly thought to myself “how do cute little dogs see me”
Then I came across this awesome video, that gave me lots more information, and I felt the need to share it with everyone
All writing advice is subjective, but there are some mistakes in writing that WILL ensure your novel’s failure, not only to your readers but to those who might be your potential agent or publisher. I’ve never really come across these mistakes when I used to review short stories for my literary magazine (I might have, I just don’t remember), but as a self-employed editor, I most certainly have come across them—and have made one or two myself.
- Happy Beginnings. Many first chapters must start out with some sort of tension. In the first two books of The Stars Trilogy, they start out with heavy tension. Amelia from When Stars Die is terrified of the impending trials that will determine her readiness to be professed as a nun, and she is also seeing shadows no one else sees. That is when this book begins. In the sequel, Alice is slated to be executed for being a witch. In the most recent book I’m writing, the chapter starts out with my teen protagonist trying to get drunk: he is a recovering alcoholic, too. These are not happy beginnings. You don’t want your story to start out with your protagonist having a perfect life. Something that essentially upsets your character must occur.
- Fearless Story. Something needs to threaten the character throughout the book, whether this is the threat of death, the threat of psychologically coming undone, the threat of losing things the character love, and so on and so forth. A story without fear is not a story at all. Throughout When Stars Die, Amelia’s primary threat is the threat of death: her death and her younger brother’s death. Think about your favorite books and what threatened the characters in these books the most.
- Loaded Dialogue. In real life dialogue is loaded, but readers want to read a more concise version of that dialogue. I didn’t have too many issues with loaded dialogue in When Stars Die, but I did in its sequel. Let me give you a few examples of loaded dialogue, and then how to fix that dialogue.
“Gene, can’t you stop drinking just for one freaking night?”
“No, Josh. You just don’t understand me. You don’t understand what this does for me.’
“I might not understand, but I do know this isn’t the best way to deal with your problems.”
“Then obviously you’ve never had problems before.”
“Obviously you can’t handle your own problems!”
Here is a more concise version:
Josh glares at the shot glass. “Shit. Just stop already.”
“Give me a reason.”
“Do you really need one?”
I look beyond Josh, swirling the vodka. ”Your life’s perfect.”
Josh digs his nails into the palms of his hands, the knuckles whitening. “Screw you, Gene. Screw you.”
- Predictability. Sometimes there are some very astute readers who can already tell what is going to happen. For example, I am an astute reader. I already knew who the culprit was in Cheryl Rainfield’s Stained, but that didn’t make the book any less enjoyable. I also had one reader who adored When Stars Die, even though some of the twists were not twists for her; however, many other readers of mine did not see the twists coming. These twists keep your book from being predictable. Knowing what’s coming can kill the tension.
If you’re struggling with making something unexpected happen, come up with a list of outcomes that could occur in certain situations. Concentrate on description, dialogue, and action. Write what could occur with your description. With Amelia’s character, she often describes things rather negatively because of her surroundings, so when she comes across something positive, the surprise lies in the negative she is still going to find. You can create a twist using your dialogue to shock the other character. Refer to my dialogue example above. Josh is put off by Gene’s ambivalent attitude about his drinking problem. As for action, there needs to be unexpected outcomes that occur. For example, in When Stars Die, you think Amelia is supposed to kill a certain antagonist, but she’s not the one who does it.
- Ambivalence. You love the book when you draft; however, when you begin to revise it, you hold a certain amount of ambivalence toward it. You already wrote the book, so you lose your excitement because you think nothing new can happen. But a lot of new things can happen. Delve deeper into your characters. Flesh them out. Find better ways to tell your story. Look at all characters, including your antagonists, and see how you can make them better. Look at sub-plots and find ways to make them stronger. Revisions are essentially about cutting the fat, about making the book much better than its draft, about trying to make the second draft different from the first. I love the process of revisions, because I already know what revising a draft means.
Message me with any questions or comments. Next post will be on writing a novel without an outline, which is crazy, because I can’t do this. This post will be for those who absolutely do not want to outline, even if they are stuck on their stories.
Ohh, “Loaded Dialogue” is a thing I’ve had issues with (in my writing & in what I read) for years without having a term for it. Thanks!
"They call me Buck, but I don’t know who I am."
"It seems to be a common misconception, that the A stands for ally…When the misconception is corrected to point out that A does not stand for ‘ally’ but rather ‘asexual’ since many seem to either believe that:
A: Asexuality doesn’t exist
B: Is just another word for celibacy
C: Asexuality is just a phase/mental instability
D: Asexuals aren’t queer enough to be counted under the LGBT umbrella
E: That we somehow reproduce asexually like an amoeba or a giant mutated lizard out to destroy Manhattan…
…The acephobia triggered by ignorance is at least fixable even if it gets tedious trying to explain that Gozilla is not a good example of an asexual.” -Why the A in LGBTQIA+ doesn’t stand for ‘ally’, Alex Soule, 13/8/14, UNSW Tharunka
It is not my intention to take away from the aforementioned article, which is important in its own right, but I’d like to branch off from it to bring to light here a wonderful thing called parthenogenesis…
If it bleeds, we can kill it
so here’s a fun story about this movie. guess who loves this movie? me! i do! i love this movie. i love this movie so much that when i was in the 7th grade and i saw “first wives club 2” on pay per view i was like: HELL YEAH!! FIRST WIVES CLUB TWO!! NO ONE TOLD ME THERE WAS A SEQUEL!!!
here’s the synopsis for first wives club 2:
disgruntled first wives take their ex-husbands’ new lovers under their wing.
sounds great, right? awesome viewing material for a precocious 11-year-old.
so i buy this movie, and like, three minutes into it i’m starting to feel suspicious?? like it’s really low quality and my girls are nowhere in sight?? how come none of the first wives are the same?? how come they’re alone in a bedroom with mood lighting?? why is she taking off her shirt?? why are they both taking off their shirts?? WHY ARE THEY—
here’s what i did not know about first wives club 2:
- it is a lesbian porno of no relation to the beloved 1996 classic.
so of course i, horrified that i’ve accidentally bought porn on my family’s account (and in that state of panic that kids work themselves into whenever anything regarding sex is mentioned), quickly shut off the TV and go upstairs and watch an episode of veggie tales to like, cleanse my soul and apologize to jesus, and that’s that.
EXCEPT, OF COURSE:
- you have to pay for pay per view.
so the end of the month comes and i have completely put this incident out of my mind, haha, i accidentally bought porn, how funny, TELL NO ONE. right? and i’m sitting at a nice dinner with my mother, my stepfather, and my very religious aunt deb, and we’re just talking about farm things, whatever, when suddenly my mother puts her fork down and says, “okay, there’s something we need to discuss. as a family.”
- AS A FAMILY.
and i’m like, running through a list of people i know who could conceivably be dead, and fantasizing about my mother announcing that she’s going to buy me My Own Computer Just Because U Earned It Kiddo, and she pulls out a piece of paper that says DIRECTV across the top. and i’m like: OH NO.
"i received the tv bill today," my mother said, and i was like, shoveling potatoes into my mouth as fast as i could because i knew that when i went to PORN PRISON they weren’t going to feed me this kind of quality starch. "does anybody want to tell me who purchased the pornography?"
as a reminder, a quick table survey:
- my mother, surprised and disappointed by the porn bill (innocent)
- my stepfather, a grumbly old cowboy who just wants to sing along to kenny chesney and watch the hunt for red october (innocent)
- my aunt deb, a super religious catholic whose best friend is a nun named Sister Placid (innocent)
- me, the 11-year-old with a mouthful of potatoes who definitely purchased the lesbian pornography
my mother said, “i’m not going to ask again.”
my aunt looked at my stepdad. my stepdad looked at my aunt. NOBODY LOOKED AT ME, THE 11-YEAR-OLD WITH A MOUTHFUL OF POTATOES WHO DEFINITELY PURCHASED THE LESBIAN PORNOGRAPHY.
my mother shook her head and put the bill down. “this was incredibly inappropriate,” she said. “skip, deb, whoever. buy that shit on your own time. i’m not paying for it. what if molly had seen it?”
- WHAT IF MOLLY HAD SEEN IT?
"don’t expose my kid to that crap."
- MY KID
- TO THAT CRAP
"if you want to watch porn, fine, but do it in private and don’t expect me to pay for it. i can’t believe one of you did that in the living room."
- I CAN’T BELIEVE ONE OF YOU DID THAT
- IN THE LIVING ROOM
but molly, why didn’t you own up to it and explain that it was an accident?
- are you fucking kidding
- i did not want to go to porn prison
the fun conclusion to this story is that i never owned up to it, which means that there are 3 people in the world who have not solved the mystery of the lesbian porn. a quick survey:
- my mother, who lives every day wondering whose porn she paid for
- my stepfather, who probably wishes he knew less about his wife’s sister’s porn preferences
- my aunt, who probably wishes she knew less about her sister’s husband’s porn preferences
but molly, why don’t you own up to it now, with the safety of time and distance and the knowledge that porn prison isn’t real?
- are you fucking kidding
- this is the best thing i’ve ever done