1. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do we all make the same mistakes?

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Chinspinner, Oct 23, 2015.

    I think we all experience the same problems (at least us amateurs): -
    • Telling
    • Wordiness/ purple prose
    • Head-hopping
    • Adverbs
    • Muddling tenses
    • Homogeneous dialogue
    • Authorial Intrusion
    • Forced exposition
    • Pacing
    Does anyone have a good resource that covers these?

    Feel free to add more.

    Edited to add 7 onwards.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I sometimes wonder if my posts fall on deaf ears.
     
  3. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Writing.
     
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  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Happens to me all the time.

    The problems you've listed, I've some of them myself. The most glaring problem for me is that no matter whether it's in third or first, I always start every sentence with either 'I' or the main character's name, or every paragraph.
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think every new writer makes the same mistakes. I don't think I had issues with any of those, but I am still working to learn other things, like:

    effective pacing, and what to tell rather than show;

    repeated "cheat" words;

    writing to market expectations (and when to ignore market expectations).


    Probably others, too, but none of the ones from the first post.

    So I think that'll be the problem with trying to find a single resource that addresses all the issues faced by beginning writers - there would have to be a lot of topics covered, and a lot of the topics wouldn't apply to a lot of new writers.
     
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  6. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, but you are a professional. So you jumped beyond general crapness to general salesmanship.
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the third one might be salesmanship, but the other two are pretty basic writing issues, I'd say.
     
  8. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I don't make errors, and even if I did make an error, that would be an error.
     
  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Adverbs is the only one of those I struggle with. Well, I'm not entirely sure what you mean by homogenous dialogue - where every character sounds the same? I don't think I have that problem.

    My issues:
    An aversion to introspection
    Mysteries (how many/what clues to give, pacing the reveal)
    How much description to include (I don't picture scenes or characters clearly when I'm reading, so tend to skip writing description altogether, but I know some readers like it)
     
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  10. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe the only real flaw is to write stuff that doesn't engage the reader. Excessive telling, wordiness, head-hopping, etc. are sub-flaws that might contribute to not engaging the reader. There are always stories that can 'work' despite having one or more of the official sub-flaws. But even if there is a good balance of showing/telling, the right amount of wordiness, head-hopping, appropriate use of adverbs, etc., if it fails to engage the reader - not good.
     
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  11. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, basically where every character speaks with the author's voice, or in formal prose.
     
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  12. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find that giving each character their own subtle nuances and quirks in speech works. Think of people you know in life, and things they say or the way they say it and try to incorporate that, or variances of it into your characters so that even without (name specific) dialogue tags, they'll be identifiable to the reader.
    Just my two bob's worth, but it works for me, I think.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    One way or the other we all struggle (or struggled at one time) with overlapping problems. There are a finite number of more common problems that writers have.

    Of the ones you've listed:
    • Telling
    • Wordiness/ purple prose
    • Head-hopping
    • Adverbs
    • Muddling tenses
    • Homogeneous dialogue
    Telling was the natural way I began writing. I think @ChickenFreak is the one who said it's because we think in pictures but we communicate with words and a writer who isn't born with the talent begins with telling.

    By the same token, dialogue is easy for me to write, and I share @Tenderiser's lack of the ability to write description. The same applies about thinking in images but communicating with dialogue.

    Both of those weaknesses can be overcome with a couple techniques and a bit of practice. Read lots of examples, and do a lot of editing to eliminate unnecessary telling.

    And for description, besides reading lots of examples, I've taken to thinking of description as a form of showing and dialogue. The description isn't just a snapshot of the scene, think of it as alive and dynamic.

    If a character is overpowering and frightening to your protagonist, then the setting should be overpowering and frightening to the protagonist. If the setting is a sanctuary, it can be warm and comforting. By the same token it can be full of curiosities, or in a setting the character has mastered she can demonstrate her skills within it.

    I've never had trouble with purple prose or head hoping. I do have to constantly go back and delete all the filter words. It's a mechanical issue rather than a skill and corrections are like fixing typos. Same with getting rid of excessive adverbs, I keep the thesaurus tab open on my browser screen. Tense issues is simple editing, but then grammar has never been a problem for me.

    My characters sound different because they are different people in my head. But I have had to work on getting the right age for the voices. I rely on my critique group to help with that. An outside reader can tell you when the voice in your head isn't the right age for a character.
     
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  14. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    It's not so much that I can't write description, just that I don't know how much is necessary. My preference is for absolutely minimal description - when I'm reading, I tend to skip over descriptive paragraphs entirely so it feels like a waste of time to write them - but obviously other readers are very different. I know you can't please everybody, so it's about finding the right balance to please most people enough that they don't get annoyed.

    You know, writing would be so much easier if nobody was ever going to read it :D
     
  15. Erez Kristal
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    Erez Kristal Member

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    Maybe it's the beginner side in me speaking... But isn't the most important rule for a book, is to be fun-interesting?


    Ps - A) What's wrong with adverbs? They can help the flow.
    B) Wordiness is where things get fun, if I wanted to write a scientific paper, i'd get a master degree.
    C) Show not tell - I hate it when I play and interactive game and story tells me how my character feel... In novels, it is better to avoid. But it can also help you push the plot forward faster or avoid a meaning less description. It can work for POV characters though.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015
  16. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I found this book very helpful: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

    It doesn't cover all of them but the ones it does were cleared up nicely for me.
     
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  17. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    A) They are fine, but their over-use clutters sentences, or sometimes they are redundant when used with a verb that conveys the meaning adequately, or to shore up an inadequate verb. I over-use them.
    B) I think wordiness really just describes redundant or extraneous verbiage. I love descriptive prose. Are redundant and extraneous redundant and extraneous in that sentence?
     
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  18. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've got that book, it's lying on my chest as I type.
     
  19. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    I have to stop myself from over-describing. I can usually picture everything really clearly, so I tend to include a lot of unnecessary details.
    I don't know what to do with my characters' hands. When people are having conversations, or when my detective is interviewing witnesses, I feel like I have to keep the characters busy. I don't know if it's a good thing they aren't just pingponging lines of dialogue, or if it's too wordy.
     
  20. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    This really grated with me in The Time-Traveller's Wife. I didn't like the book anyway because all the characters were pretentious dullards, but between every line of dialogue she would describe some irrelevant action they were doing, and it just drove me up the wall.
     
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  21. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I finished a book recently where they had too much description. Slabs of it I had to skip over to remain interested.

    At school, "For the term of his natural life" drove me to distraction in the same way.

    As a general rule, anything that distracts from the story is bad, mmk?
     
  22. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which book?
     
  23. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    • I am god awful at world-building, and sometimes general description is an ordeal.
    • My vocabulary could use an upgrade.

    ...Well, now I feel less like a rockstar. :wtf:

    *goes to a corner and cries*
     
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  24. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Don't worry, Imaginarily. We all suck in our own unique, beautiful way.
     
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  25. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    The only two that are really a problem for me now are adverbs (easily corrected in editing) and homogeneous dialogue. But yes, world-building is something I also struggle with. I think my writing is adequate now, but creating compelling characters and an immersive world for them to occupy is still a problem.
     
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