Rookie Writing Mistakes Part 2

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First off, thanks for making Rookie Writing Mistakes Part 1 my second most popular post on this blog! Since you’ve made it clear you liked that kind of info, I followed up on that post with this one. This post is much more about the nitty gritty of writing than the last post. In Part 1, I chose big picture things. In Part 2, I focus on smaller, but just as important, mistakes.

Ready for some more tips so you don’t look like an amateur writer?

  1. Choosing The Right Name For Your Character

This is a matter of opinion, but I have two warnings. One, if you don’t think it through, your character will end up with a name that doesn’t cut it. Unless you’re going for humor, naming a fierce warrior Petunia probably isn’t your best bet (although I would totally read that story if it wasn’t supposed to be dramatic or serious).

Two, pick something you don’t mind typing a few hundred times. Lord Atreyu Baskatar of the Eastern Realms might sound interesting, but trust me, type that out three hundred times over a few hundred pages and you’ll hate it.

     2. Using The Wrong Name For Your Characters

Alright, so maybe you ignored my previous warning and named your character Lord Atreyu Baskatar. Good for you for sticking up for what you want. The problem?

Unless you’re extra careful, in fifty pages that name will be something like Altreau  Baskitar. The more complicated the name, the more likely you’ll misspell it. Save your editor and readers from finding those mistakes. It’s embarrassing, and I know because, to this day, if you look at my Amazon description for Black Forest, my main character’s surname is missing an “e” on the end (but that book has a load of issues I’m currently working on).

Another thing that can happen is you change a character’s name midway through. Either you change the name starting at that point and figure you’ll fix the previous pages when you edit (which you’ll inevitably forget or still miss a few), or you use find and replace to change the name.

I love find and replace in Microsoft word, but it has one big flaw. Say my character’s name is Rose. It’s a simple, respectable name and perfect. Then I decide to change it to Lily using find and replace. This is what will happen:

Original sentence:

Rose handed the item over and rose from her seat.

With Find and Replace: 

Lily handed the item over and Lily from her seat.

Find and Replace can’t distinguish between a proper noun and a verb so be extremely careful when using this tool.

    3. Verb Tense

Ah, yes, the most classic mistake of all.

After eight years and one million words written (approximately), I still sometimes go from “is” to “was.” It’s also the most common mistake I see when new writers ask me to beta read for them.

Choose whether your book will be present or past tense from the beginning. It will save you work and time, and while you might still screw up occasionally, it’s better than changing every verb for twenty pages (I’ve done it and don’t recommend it). You don’t need to be highly-skilled in English to write, but you need a decent understanding of it.

If you want to know the truth, I used to be the worst writer and speller among my peers. However, that all changed by freshman year of high school when I spent hours pouring over information about writing and had written half a book myself.

So, don’t worry if you don’t know Lay vs. Lie yet. You’ll get there if you work at it.

If you need more tips, check out my Pinterest board, Tips For New Writers.

As always, hope this helps.

Alexa M.

Rookie Writing Mistakes

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(This is from 2017 but published again after it was lost while updating the blog. So much for making sure everything was prepared before updating 😉 )

I’m back! It’s been a busy summer with the release of City of Deception, and I can’t believe it’s been months since my last post. Sorry about that.

Well, I’ll catch you up briefly then go on to the topic of this post. If you want to skip my update, just go to the first bold section.

I announced not only would I be releasing the sequel to City of Deception in June 2018, but I’ll be releasing a second book next year too! I’m rewriting the Curtain of Perception series (and probably renaming it) and releasing the third and final book in that series. More updates coming next week.

As for my life, I opened a new business, dyed my hair red for the first time, and learned to knit. Not important at all, but proving I have a life outside of writing.

So, without further ado, let’s talk about Rookie Writing Mistakes.

The first time someone asked me for writing advice, I just about teared up I was so happy. They trusted me to give them advice? When had I gone from a nobody writer to a successful one in their eyes?

It took six years before I felt I really knew enough about writing to be a “professional.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. Feeling like a professional doesn’t mean I stop learning about writing. I spend 30% of my allotted writing time on Pinterest reading blog posts about writing, publishing trends, and plot ideas. (If you’ve never done this, you can check out my profile. I’ve got several thousand pinned to help you start!)

I was a rookie and still am compared to the writers with thirty books and contracts with the Big Five publishers.

But I’ve learned a lot, and today want to share some of it with you. If you do the three things below, you’ll be a better writer than most rookies. It takes more than good writing and editing to make a great writer.

  1. Research, Research, Research!

Know your genre before you sit down to write. Is it nonfiction? Science fiction? Urban fantasy?

For instance: You might think there are a handful of genres. You might think Fantasy is just fantasy. It isn’t.

There are YA and adult fantasy. There’s urban, paranormal, epic, medieval…the list goes on.

Know your readers and genre well, as I didn’t when I published Black Forest. Now, I’m paying for my mistake by rewriting and rereleasing the whole thing Fall 2018. You want to rewrite almost 125,000 words? No, didn’t think so. Learn from my mistake.

  1. Don’t compare yourself to other writers.

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’re probably not going to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers. There are many reasons for that from sheer luck to talent to resources, but the main thing is you can’t be them. If you write a book similar to their’s, you’re ripping off their ideas.

You should ONLY write like you because that is better than anything else. If you try to write like someone else, it will be obvious.

I know, that sounds like a lame pep talk from a teacher. Sorry.

Painters replicate masters to learn. Writers do not.

  1. The Vital Need for Patience and Respect.

Just today I read a review a writer left on a poetry site for rejecting her work. She rated them low and fussed. She was more respectful than some, but still sounded whiny.

Frankly, people who try to defend their work for minor things sound like little sh*ts. (I’m sorry, but I get so pissed at the writers who do this. They give other writers a bad reputation for being temperamental.)

If a publisher rejects your writing, big deal. Welcome to the crowd! A popular YA author once had 149 rejection letters before her book was picked up and hit the NY Times Bestsellers list.

If someone tries to steal your work, that’s one thing. But whining because of a rejection or someone criticising your work? Respectfully tell them you respect their opinion and walk away.

I know these are very basic tips, but so many people take a lot of time to learn them. Learn them as a rookie and you’ll be farther ahead than most. I also have a PART 2 of Rookie Mistakes.

As always, hope this helps!

Tips For Editing Your Story

Tips for Editing Your Story (1)Since I’m headed into the last round of edits on City of Deception, I thought it fitting to have a post about editing.  The truth is I hate editing.  It is my least favorite part of the writing process.

Over the years, I’ve tried numerous editing methods, but after several years I finally narrowed down my method.

First, I use a program called Grammarly.  It helps me catch simple mistakes before I pass my manuscripts off to my editor. If you want to check it out, click here. I’ll also be writing a post about Grammarly soon.

Besides Grammarly, here are my basic tips:

  1. Cut Filler Words

Take out words such as only, very, that, and just. You can replace very with stronger words. (Do a Google search for “replacement words for very” and you’ll find lots of ideas.)  Also watch out for too many -ly words, like quickly, loudly, and extremely.

2. Take Out Unnecessary Scenes

I’ll admit I’ve had to take out a fair number of scenes in City of Deception I liked but had enough sense to realize they didn’t add much value to the story. Fall in love with your story, but stay critical enough to know when a scene needs to be taken out.

Make sure not to delete the scene completely. Add it to another Word doc and name it something like “Cut Scenes.” There’s been more than once when I’ve recycled a scene in another story.

3. Kill Darlings

“Killing your darlings” is a writing phrase you might have heard.  It means get rid of characters in your story that aren’t doing anything. Just because you’ve fallen in love with a character doesn’t mean your readers will or that your readers will want said character in the story. If they aren’t pushing the action and your plot forward, cut them out.

4. Fix Place Holders

Often when I’m in a hurry to finish a first draft, I sometimes refer to characters as BLANK or put things in like FINISH THE DIALOGUE HERE.  I also will have a lot of “I say/said.” Say/Said is fine, but body language is a better way to write dialogue.  For example:

Using Say/Said: 

 “How could you!” I shout.

“I lied because I had to,” he says.

Using Body Language:

I shove him in the chest. “How could you!”

He glances down at the floor. “I lied because I had to,” he whispers.

It’s not perfect, but it gives you an idea.

5. Check Your Verbs

Make all of your verbs as strong as possible.  Use the Find feature in Word (if using Word) and search for things like I am, I was, He is, He was, and any being verbs. Being verbs are am, is, are, was, be, being, been, have, had, do, does, did, shall, will, should, would, may, might, must, can, could. Obviously, if you try to take out every single one you have a long job ahead of you.  I suggest you go with a 50/50 rule.  Some even suggest keeping 20%, but I think trying to change that much will change your writing style and make it a little choppy.

This post is far from complete, but it’s still a good list of general tips to keep in mind no matter the genre or length of your story.

Happy editing!