1. Mr. Galaxy

    Mr. Galaxy Member

    Dec 17, 2015
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    Pitfalls for new writers

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mr. Galaxy, Dec 19, 2015.

    What are some pitfalls for new writers? Things we should know, experiences you've had, setting expectations and growing.

    Your wisdom I seek, now would you kindly... Impart!
  2. datahound2u

    datahound2u Member

    Nov 15, 2015
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    One of my biggest pitfalls is the Internet. Unless I'm doing research, I need to discipline myself better to keep the browsers closed!

    When I'm in the zone, I have no problem keeping the words coming. However, when I'm just starting a writing session, and I really haven't written very much yet, my mind tries very hard to wander, and the Internet is just a click away.

    Sometimes I wish I had a gizmo connected to my mouse, so that unless I am in Scrivener's research folder, if I click on a browser icon, I'll get a mild electric shock!
  3. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

    Oct 21, 2008
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    Cave of Ice
    Older members here are already well aware of my one-string banjo, but I just can't resist the urge.

    Back in 2014 I had a pretty active period on this site before taking a break from writing. During that period I did a lot of workshop critiques. And quite often I'd see a few major issues that were pretty common among the newer writers.

    The biggest one by far was a lack of understanding of POV. For anyone unfamiliar with the abbreviation (I often take these things for granted!), it stands for Point of View. In school you learn about POV in reference to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person, but from what I remember that's about as far as it goes. High school doesn't teach creative writing in your standard English class. For academic writing, POV isn't really a big deal. But for creative writing...well, in my humblest of opinions, it's one of the biggest deals of all.

    POV is a lot more than what pronouns you choose to use. You don't say, "Oh, I'm going to write this in 3rd person...now I'm done with POV." Nope. Not even close. In academic writing, the POV is always you, the author. The piece is always written by the author, through the author, using the voice of the author. That's the point. But in creative writing (and I'm specifically speaking about prose here), the author is not part of the story (usually...of course, there are always exceptions).

    The whole idea behind the importance of POV is the philosophy of the reader. When I approach reading, I want to be immersed in the story. I don't simply want the story to be told to me by the author. I want to live as the main character and experience the story through that character. That's what keeps me invested. That's what makes me relate to the character, care about her/him, and want to keep turning the pages. So how, as an author, do you do that effectively?

    You use POV. This is what it's designed for.

    If you write your prose from the POV of you, the author, then you're doing exactly what almost every new writer does. And that's because it's how you're taught to write. As I said, academic writing is author-centric. But here's the thing--author-centric prose is boring. Because it's dry. It's explanation and summary. It's exposition. It's the story being told to me as if you're sitting beside me and pointing things out. That goes against what I want as a reader.

    In order to make the story engaging, it needs to be presented through the POV of the character--the central character of that scene/chapter. That means the narrative reflects that character's voice and personality. That means the narrative only shows what that POV character perceives and biases the observations the way that character would be biased. It puts the reader in the head of that character and shows him/her the world as the character views it, however incorrect or jaded it is. I often say there's no place for objectivity in fiction. I want the character's biases to mislead me. That way I can be as surprised as the character when it turns out that those biases are wrong!

    It's not an easy concept to get right away. Even I still go back through my writing and find instances where I slip up or could have done something better. But knowing is half the battle. Too many writers stick with author-centric writing because they think that's the correct way to go about it (hey, it got them all A's in English class!) and don't understand why readers find their work boring, or just lacking something. Once you get a feel for POV, practice makes perfect. But you'll never get it right if you don't know the tool exists.

    Of course, this is all my opinion. I can't stress that enough, because another pitfall new writers fall into is taking everything "more experienced" writers say as gospel and essentially killing themselves trying to follow all the "rules." My opinions serve me well. Most of the people who received critiques from me found value in it. But it's not for everyone, and it's not always going to be the right way to do it. There will always be times when conventions should be broken, or when suggestions like mine may actually hamper a work. It's up to the author to discern what methods will work best for his or her piece. But that is also a strategy that will come with time. There's a difference between a writer not adhering to POV because they've chosen not to and understand what effect it will have, and a writer not adhering to POV because they don't know what POV is.

    And at that, I'll put my banjo away and get off my soapbox.
  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
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    I don't know if it's an error, but it's the opposite of what worked for me, so maybe it is...

    I see a lot of new writers really, really focusing on one book, often their first book, and treating it as if it's their masterpiece. They spend years and years on it, perfect it, have publishing and marketing plans built only around it, and... that's all.

    Maybe that's what they want. They just want one perfect book, and are convinced this book can be perfect, and once it's published they'll just stop writing, I guess?

    But most authors, including most authors of great books, write a hell of a lot more than one book. Hopefully writers can find ways to keep growing and improving even after they start getting stuff published. So it's a bit weird for me when I see so many writers apparently believing that their first attempt at a novel/at publishing is their one shot. Possibly a pitfall, especially if that one shot doesn't hit the target they were aiming for.
  5. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Supporter Contributor

    Oct 12, 2015
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    On the Road.
    Being just that, a new and inexperienced writer with now half a WIP let me point out that you only get experience through writing. The first chapters will not be up to standards. With each succeeding one you get more experienced, will start recognizing what works for you and what doesn't. So don't start editing the first chapters until quite a lot of time later. Later on you can go back and be appalled at what you wrote at the start ;)

    But yeah, what @BayView writes could be true as well. But being new and inexperienced, I need more time and words yet to finish even my first WIP, so I can't say how I will react when getting to the finish line. I would hope to heed her warnings :)
  6. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

    Jan 3, 2011
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    A place with no future
    -Overlooking the importance of letting your ms rest between revisions, preferably 3 months or more and instead rushing it out to publishers the minute you think it's finished.
    -Like someone said, treating your first ms like it's your only chance to ever getting published and then spend a substantial amount of time of submitting, getting rejections, modify it slightly, submitting it again and so on for years and years and going slightly nuts and quite depressed instead of just WRITING SOMETHING ELSE. Sometimes we just have to realise that our first ms's probably won't ever get published. And maybe shouldn't even.
    -Failing to look at the first things you write like learning projects because you're so engrossed in the world and the stories and the characters that you believe it's the biggest and most important story you'll ever write.
    -Quitting a project as soon as the going gets tough to start on something new, and then repeating that procedure for years.
    Lifeline likes this.

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