Much of becoming a great writer involves constant introspection and self-criticism. It’s willingly examining your faults and admitting you’ve made mistakes. I do this all the time by rereading stories I wrote six months, a year ago, and asking myself if some of the reviewers are right.
I’ve said this before, but it still holds true. Reviewers are both correct and incorrect. Take my first YA (young adult) best-seller, ME & TIMOTHY COOPER. I’ve had people say it was short, oh, a thousand times. They are right. It is. But I wrote it that way, and really, the seventy-fifth time of telling me that was overkill.
I’ve also had people say it mentions marriage too much. When I reread it months later, I found out those people are right. It does. Now, I’m not going to go change it. It’s a testament to where I was at the time. However, I am going to learn from it and not do that again.
Frankly, I don’t understand writers who don’t strive to become better. Yes, we shouldn’t put ourselves in a box of rules that limits our creativity. Goodness knows, I’ve broken just about every rule there is where subject, plot, and characters are concerned. On the other hand, there are “hard and fast” rules that I won’t touch. The overuse of “as” and “when” is one. (I’ve talked about that before.)
Here’s another, DON’T STATE THE OBVIOUS. There isn’t any need to say what the reader will logically infer. Below are a few examples.
The foyer is surrounded by walls. Of course, it is.
She looked DOWN at the floor. Where else is the floor?
She put shoes on her feet. No, she put them on her hands. (Possible, but not normal.)
She blinked her eyes. Again, right. She blinked her toenails.
It also isn’t always necessary to say “she stood” if she walked somewhere. Of course, she’s standing if she’s walking. And here’s one I struggle with … you don’t have to say they went through a doorway to get into a room. Most of the time, the reader will know that.
Another common writing error I run across (and am guilty of) is, “Don’t have body parts doing things independent of the person.”
Her eyes crinkled. No, she crinkled her eyes.
Her fingers walked up his spine. No, she walked her fingers up his spine.
These are all examples, and I’m sure other writers have those they could share. But here’s my biggest point. Make a habit of not writing that way.
I had an editor tell me not too long ago that she had very little work to do after reading one of my novels. That is a compliment that I am very proud of. But do you know why she could say that? Because I spend so much time editing my own work.
I’ve studied use of commas, proper language, and good sentence structure. I’ve learned the difference between showing and telling in a scene. I’ve taught myself to never use “as” or “when” if it can be avoided. I critique every point of the plot, asking questions along the way and taking feedback from people I trust.
I’ve made it a habit to eliminate mistakes and not rely strictly on my editors to save me. Their job is to provide a fresh perspective when I need it and to catch the small errors I simply didn’t see. My job is to write the story, and as the author, that includes knowing how to write and to write well.
It means growing, not staying where I’m at, and being honest with myself when I blow it. It also means because these things have become a natural part of the writing process, I don’t need as much feedback as I used to. I know when a scene is done that it’s exactly what I meant to say.
I am proud of every story I’ve written. I worked hard to produce each one. But that doesn’t meant they are without flaws. It does mean I did my best where I was at the time, always reaching to write the next one a bit better than the last, to LEARN my chosen profession, because that is the sign of a truly great writer.
LOVE AFTER SNOWFALL
The death of Clementine Button’s husband left her to fend for herself in the wilds of Alaska, and she was doing pretty well until one cold day after the first snowfall when she shot a moose.
And a man. Or did she? Because the wound in Ezekiel Knapp’s leg seems all wrong for her gun, and now, his life hangs in the balance.
Everything that brought about her husband’s death seems to have come full circle again. Only this time, the last thing she’s going to do is wait and let another man die. Especially not one who in three days has managed to become everything she needs.
Best-selling author, Suzanne D. Williams, is a native Floridian, wife, mother, and photographer. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes a monthly column for Steves-Digicams.com on the subject of digital photography, as well as devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors.