When I first started writing and sending my attempts out to beta partners and critique sites, it wasn’t unusual to get a wide range of comments from “This sucks.” to “This is the best thing I’ve ever read!” Just goes to show how different people view what you write, and it’s pointless to try to please all of them. One thing that was consistent were the following comments:
1. Don’t be so descriptive and technical.
A big comment I got a lot was “I love your descriptions, but they go on too long and I started skimming.”
Skimming? Oh no. No skimming in my books. It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn because I am such a description hound, but there is a happy medium. There is no need to take your reader on a tour of the room unless each of the things you point out are relevant to the story in some way. For example:
“Above the cherry-wood mantel hung a gilded mirror. Upon closer inspection of the frame, I noticed the handiwork revealed cherubs chasing rabbits through vines of ivy. Each cherub possessed a unique expression and varying lengths of hair, as well as age. The intricate work down to their fingernails, was exquisite.”
Now unless my main character is an art dealer and is looking for such a piece, or those cherubs are about to come to life, this information is way too much. For most, knowing there is a gilded mirror over the mantel is enough information.
2. Voice change.
Writing a character’s voice and keeping it consistent is difficult. With me, my ‘adult’ voice creeps in now and then and my teens sound older than they really are. Thank goodness I have a couple of good beta readers that are excellent at finding my ‘voice’ mistakes and offering suggestions on how to fix them. I am also thankful for my teen son who has no problem telling me he wouldn’t say something a certain way.
3. Disembodied body parts and having eyes do strange things
All of us writers do it, and most of the time we don’t see it when we edit. That’s why we have beta readers and critique partners. How many times have you written something like, “His hand reached for his gun.” Is his hand not connected to his body? Did it wander off on its own? Yep, funny stuff, but not as funny as what we get our eyes to do.
We’ve all seen the phrases:
- Their eyes met across the room.
- Her eyes devoured him. (wow, those are some big hungry, man-eating eyes)
- His eyes fell to the floor. (splat)
- Her eyes were glued to the book. (ouch)
I used to roll my eyes and grimace whenever I saw comments like this because everyone knows what the author meant. Still, eyes are not disembodied body parts that can wander around. I’ve learned to rev up the heat or the tension by showing and involving the reader in my scene.
Instead of “Her eyes devoured him.” try something like:
“Her sultry body and come-hither stare consumed him, burning him in a way he hadn’t felt since Nina died.”
Yeah, it’s a bit longer, but the picture is much clearer, don’t you think?
What are some mistakes you’ve learned as a writer you’d like to share?
- 5 Editing Tips To Polish Your Writing (seventeenmagness.wordpress.com)
- 8 Copy Editing Tricks to Make You Look Professional – Whiteboard Friday (seomoz.org)
- Writers write, Readers read…Can’t We Just Support Each Other? (paigematthews.com)
- Guest Post: Tips to Proofread Your Own Work (backwoodsauthor.com)
- Critiques Make Your Writing Better, So Grin and Bear Them (hunterlewand.wordpress.com)
- J.B. McGee ~ Top Ten Things I’ve Learned Being an Author (literatiliteraturelovers.com)
- Why You Need Fearless Beta Readers (descentintoslushland.wordpress.com)
- 5 Tips For New Authors (rushilgulati.wordpress.com)
- Writing’s Hard (enigmainklings.blogspot.com)
- The Bitterest Pill to Swallow? (traciewrites.wordpress.com)