Not putting enough emphasis on rewrites. Sooner than later a completed manuscript will be staring back at you. For me this took almost 5 months. I was happy, satisfied, and ready to get the piece published. Now two years later I know the value of putting time into rewrites. This is where good stories are made great and bad stories are thrown away to pursue another direction. I did both and I’m a better writer for doing so. Anyone can write but far too few take the time to rewrite.
Showing Too Much The first tip I ever received in the first months of writing my middle grade story was to SHOW DON’T TELL. I took that to heart but my first draft was way too bulky (Show does take more words than Tell). I cut and redid many scenes. It was often better for the flow of the story to just go out and tell about a character trait or emotion than to go on for pages. Everything doesn’t need a backstory. I still have more SHOW than TELL and the story flows better.
Weak Descriptions About a year into my rewriting I began to focus more on individual lines and words. I found many that could be painting a more vivid picture for readers. A line like… It was morning and I woke up… became… Opening one eye the sliver of light around the widow shade was the last thing I wanted to see. As a past writing teacher once told me “Make your words come alive. Let me see what you are experiencing.”
Not Reading Enough I was in this writer’s cocoon and failed to keep reading what was coming out in my genre and specifically first person narratives. I have since caught up. Currently I am into an intriguing story called LIAR AND SPY by Rebecca Stead. Reading reviews has also helped keep me up to date as to what is working for readers. Review websites and blogs are plentiful for all types of novels.
Losing My Babies I sometimes laugh out loud at some of the unique twists and dialog created from my off centered mind. Too bad they didn’t make the final cut. After embracing the scenes for way too long I finally saw the light: Yes they were cute and hilarious but none of them moved the story forward. I put them to away where hopefully they can be resurrected in a future story.
Letting it Rest At first I never allowed a rest between rewrites. Subjectivity was thrown out the window. About a year ago I finally let the story sit for a few weeks and the story was fresh to me again. I have found as little as a week away from my manuscript has helped me look at our reunion more critically. Two weeks were even better.
Not Making it Big I had a simple story to tell. After the first draft, I realized a simple story still needed a big idea. I reread the manuscript and lifted big idea as the centerpiece. I also gave the ending a bigger emphasis. Looking back and comparing the two versions show me how much more memorable the story has become. Lesson learned: Punch up the story line so it flies above all the other similar sounding stories. Make your protagonist memorable by giving him or her a uniqueness that won’t soon be forgotten.
Seven mistakes. I hope other writers will stay clear of these and find the light quicker than I did.