Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Clearing The Decks...Still

I knocked off my current slush reading requirements last night.

The biggest thing I've noticed so far with the dozen or so submissions I've read - new and emerging writers need to gain feedback and input from other writers whether in a formal crit group or through someone they know who has had some success in gaining publication in the types of magazines you, as the new or emerging writer, would like to target.

A lot of the submissions seem under polished, almost immature. Now I don't mean that as in an adult who enjoys getting around in nappies (not that there's anything wrong with that), but the writing has been allowed out into the market place without having had a real good going over. Other writers haven't given input and picked up where sentences don't read real fluent - I'm not kidding, I've seen sentence structures like this.

Examples (I've changed things so as to not use real examples but they are similar)

  • Little things like "On the floor, I watched bugs crawl across the floor" - the use of similar words close together, or similar sounds too close together so it begins to read more like poetry.

  • Overly long sentences and talking in loops i.e. her hair was different to everyone else - hers was straight, while everyone else was curly, she was auburn while everyone else is blond, she had long hair while everyone else was short.

  • Show don't tell: We've all heard this mantra before. If you're not sure what it means, take a creative writing course. He pushed open the door and stomped into the room. The angry look in his eye was enough to let everyone there know he was in a bad mood, and when he was in that kind of mood, everyone knew to stay away. That is telling. The echo of his hobnailed boots drew everyones attention. His eyes remained fixed on the barkeep as he stomped across the room. Chairs, patrons, and stray cats were kicked out of the way. The piano faltered as he slammed his six shooter down onto the scarred oakwood of the bar. This is showing. The difference: One tells the reader what is going on, it doesn't allow them an opportunity to have any imaginative input. The other describes the scene, adds in the emotions of those experiencing it and invites the reader to experience it as well. I've painted a scene and now it's up to the reader to interpret it as they see fit. I've put in all the elements that should allow a reader to see the main character is pissed off without actually saying it. I can see you all nodding and saying "Well duh! I know that" - well do it then so I won't see any more submissions of this nature.

Honestly - get feedback, join a critique group, do a creative writing course.

On a brighter note - I received a couple of brand spanking new, hard cover , signed, books for review last night, and I'm expecting at least three others (not hard cover or signed) in the not too distant future. Lots of reading coming up.

Tonight is training night but tomorrow night - I'm sitting down and reworking Idolatry. Nothing else - just Idolatry.

Thursday is training again. Friday I restart work on Newland.


  1. Thanks for the interesting examples. Sometimes I find I'm too close to my own work to see what is blindingly obvious in someone elses.

  2. Hi Ms Emerging Writer,

    It is a proven fact that a writer reading their own work, will unconsciously insert the words they think are supposed to be in the text - therefore skipping over typos and missing words. It's also known that the vision in the writers head will be very vivid and the writer will be able to match the words on the page to that image perfectly, but other readers don't have that preconceived vision, or knowledge of what words are supposed to be there.

    Even masters like King, Koontz, and Straub still use beta readers.

    Every writer should join a critique group. It takes time to build trust in others who comment on your work, but eventually you'll find just the right group of people for you - and your writing will improve.