Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Mistakes I Made In Writing My First Manuscript


1. I started in the wrong place. Over and over again. I must have rewritten the beginning of that darn book twenty times . . . in twenty different places.

2. The first draft was too long. I had no clue about acceptable word count. Basically, my first “draft” was something like 160,000 words; in other words, a tome!

3. I knew nothing about genre when I started writing. I had a story in my head and I started putting it down, with no clue that agents, editors, and booksellers have to know HOW to shelve your book in order to sell it to readers.

4. I didn't understand point of view. Didn’t figure it out until I was on the third or fourth draft. The light bulb actually went off for me after receiving a critique from an on-line group.

5. Ditto on dialogue tags. I was snorting, gasping, wheezing, growling, snarling, rasping, whispering, scoffing, scolding, shouting, and chuckling all over the place.

6. Double ditto on the overuse of adverbs and adjectives, she admitted wryly.

7. I didn’t know the difference in passive and active voice.

8. I didn’t have a clue how to “show” rather than tell. Still struggle with that one, I must say.

9. I info dumped all over the place!

10. I didn’t realize that, even if you’re writing a series, each book has to stand alone.

11. It was originally written in third person omniscient, which is rarely used these days. (See number 4 about POV).

12. I wasn’t willing to kill my little darlings, even when they didn’t serve a purpose or move the story forward.

13. I became too attached to the story. I couldn’t believe no one recognized my brilliance. Snort! It was only after I walked away from it and tried something else that I sold.

14. I wrote in a vacuum for too many years with no feedback or constructive criticism. I should have joined a writer’s group and RWA sooner, and learned about networking and craft workshops.

These are just a few of the mistakes I made. What about you? What have you learned about the craft of writing through trial and error?

20 comments:

Callie James said...

I pretty much hit all of these in my first book as well, except my word count wasn't too much but too little. 50k maybe? Can't remember for sure, thank goodness. Good post!

Heather said...

Those were mistakes? Oh poop! Now I have to revise again :)

LOVED this post!

Lexi said...

Callie, I'm too darn wordy! Never had a problem with too little! ;-)

Lexi said...

Heather, you crack me up! I'm sure you HAVEN'T made those mistakes, because you ROCK.

RedPeril said...

I'm right there with you on the word count. My first draft was 168k. >.<

I didn't know things like the RWA existed until I was 3/4ths of the way finished with that first try. Oh well! I guess I could have been on my 5th or 6th book, showing little or no improvement. >.>


~Angela Blount

Lexi said...

Angela, I learned a lot by doing, but there's nothing like having other writers to talk to!

Carla Swafford said...

Number 8 and 14 were two of my biggies along with plain old grammar. Who knew that I needed to know more than I'd learned (and forgotten) in high school!

Carla Swafford said...

And, oh, I wrote in that vacuum for years too. The best thing I ever did was not only join RWA but get involved with my chapter. Talk about great info that you can really get on-line. Plus honest and kind critique partners and beta readers are life savers.

Carla Swafford said...

Sorry...that's CAN'T get on-line.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Uh...#8...yep, yep...still have trouble with that--until somebody else points out i'm doing it. #12 oh boy. And good grief, I'm lucky if my first draft hits 50K :-)

Chris Bailey said...

All of that. But there are more--and I probably won't be able to identify them until I finally find an agent/editor who will take me on and teach me what's going wrong. Also, thinking that might happen is probably an error in judgment.

Lexi said...

Carla, we all struggle with the craft. It's part of what makes it so darn HARD. I agree that honest critique partners and willing beta readers are essential. I was so thrilled when I found RWA and went to my first conference. At last, people with the same disease!

Lexi said...

Suzanne, it IS hard to cut stuff when we've poured out blood to get it on the page. But, if it doesn't serve a purpose in the story . . . Since I tend to wax on, I always have to trim things down. Sigh.

Lexi said...

Chris, it's a learning process as long as you do it, IMO. Never doubt your ultimate success! You WILL get there!

M.V.Freeman said...

Oh, well rats. Dialogue tags are my worst enemy...oh wait...along with everything else you listed.

There are lots of he said, she said and raising of eyebrows.

Everyone is walking around my story with eyebrows around their hairlines...eep. ;)

Thanks for this great post!

Lexi said...

Ah, Mary, I have eyebrow syndrome in my books too. Maybe it's an epidemic!

dougmeeks said...

"I didn’t realize that, even if you’re writing a series, each book has to stand alone."

This one I am not that sure about but we also HATE cliffhanger endings :)

Lexi said...

Yup, Douglas, it's true as a general rule. Look at the Harry Potter series. Each one is a mini story on its own. Of course, it's not true of every series, but I've been told this by plenty of agents. Robert Jordan frustrated the heck out of my hubby, because it kept going on and on!

Christine said...

We must have been separated at birth. I have made all those mistakes, too. Woohoo!!

Lexi said...

Yes, Christine, we are sis-tahs!!!