Monday, January 18, 2010

Thoughts From the Voyage

As I continue my voyage through my first draft, I thought I'd share some of the discoveries I've made on my sojourn. I offer these to you in the hopes that as you travel through your own drafts you avoid this mishaps (or at least are gently reminded they're out there...lurking).

Talking Heads: This is, by far, my biggest problem. Since dialogue comes very easily to me, I tend to go on and on and not fill in the needed details. I have a distressingly large amount of sections that are simply two or three people talking, or sniping, or cooing. Beware the talking head. I plan on going through all these conversations and discover what these characters can be doing, besides just being talkative.

Word Repetition: Another bugaboo for me. I've noticed during different sections that I seem to fall in love with certain words. These words litter the pages in distressingly large amounts and then disappear to be followed by the new favorite. Then there's the whole other issue with nasty little words like 'just' or 'that'. Purging will commence later.

Leaps of Logic: Luckily, I've only come across this nasty issue once, but the discovery was somewhat heart-stopping. I believe it came from me knowing so much about these characters and plots and forgetting my reader would not. More explanations were needed; a slower pace introduced.

I am not worrying about chapter breaks. Right now, it's just one big chapter. I'm not paying too much attention to word counts (but, seriously, how can you not?). I'm trying to drop clues in different disguises; some oral, some material, some inferred. I'm very conscious every character has their own voice with their own rhythm. I very aware of whose PoV is being used and therefore, what they can know or think and what they can't.

The voyage continues.

What hiccups have you encountered on your voyages?

By the way, I send warm and grateful thanks to all of you who left encouraging thoughts and wishes on my Friday post. They made me smile. Smiles are always good.


  1. You know, Elspeth, I've made every writing error know to writerdom...and then some. But, I manage to avoid talking heads because I write just to get the dialogue down and...since I follow my characters and not an see where I'm going next. Therefore I *know* I have to go back and flesh-out the scene. As a result, I usually, emphasis on usually, manage to avoid that one...the rest, oh yeah, count me in.

    Best Wishes Galen.
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  2. Elspeth - I have so much respect for your willingness to stop and reflect on your own thinking and your own writing habits. Many writers don't take the time to do that, so their work is not their best. I truly admire writers like you who take so much pride in their work that they aren't satisfied with less than their best.

  3. Sounds as though you're making great progress on this voyage. As long as you see the rough seas and get ready for the waves, you've got it made. Continued good luck and smooth sailing.

  4. I think I also fall victim to word repetition. I read Chris Roerden's book "Don't Murder Your Mystery" and it helped with my dialogue. That is, it showed me how to incorporate action along with talking.

  5. Galen; I seem to suffer from the same issue! I know I have to go back and add. Glad to know I'm not alone on the voyage!

    Margot; You always say such very kind things. Let's hope I measure up to your expectations.

    Mason; Thank you for the good wishes. Waves always show up when you least expect them!

    Carolyn; I've got a book that helps a great deal which I'm sure I'll consult once I get to the editing phase. Thanks for the recommendation. Help is always appreciated.

  6. Please pardon me while I just nod along still... the first draft is something I put off looking over until I'm completely done. Mostly. But, admittedly, when I fail at that limitation I find the first couple things you mentioned. A lot. Most notably bad pronoun usage coupled with overuse of said bad pronoun choice.

    At least the journey continues and we always, for better or worst, have that opportunity to go back and tweak/fix. Best of luck and thanks again for sharing!

  7. One time I had a very short time to turn in pages on a book I hadn't even plotted. I wrote ten pages, really quickly. Later, the editor said she was hooked until she got to page 4 where I seemed to start every sentence with "she." I grabbed my pen, began circling and she was right. Learned a lesson there.

    Straight From Hel

  8. I am guilty of: Loving my own words to much and repeating. And I am the worst at forgetting to let the reader in on the details.

    Helpful post.

  9. I'm with Galen. I've made just about every mistake possible. I even once had a scene with a roaring fire going in the middle of August!

  10. I think I've done/not done/worried about all these things, too. Except for one long chapter. My chapters are nearly always short and I don't have a problem knowing the chapter end. Repeated words and phrases are my biggest bugaboo. As for talking heads, train yourself to have someone pick something up at the beginning or end. Or type something like PICKS UP BRICK. This will be a signal on the next draft that you need to build in thought and/or action here.

  11. I am also a victim of talking head syndrome. Think it comes from writing plays knowing that I've got trusted actors to do bits to keep it going. I have taken up all sorts of ways to ground the intellect in the body so to speak - in my recent wip, the detective's interviews are punctuated by a town of foodies who are all out to impress the city cop.
    My other goomba moves are having too many folks with my opinions! And liking certain phrases from yesteryear that will stand out a mile in a supposedly modern book. Perhaps I should write about yesteryear. All of these can be spotted in the revisions though and hey we have to have a reason to do those, eh?

  12. I'm not worried about you at all, Elspeth. From what I've seen here, you are going to find all those things we all do and end up with a fab manuscript. And then an editor will find more things to fix!

  13. Kimberley; That's the good thing, isn't it? We can always fix it. Thanks for leaving a comment!

    Helen; It's horrifying how easy it is to do. I'm more aware now, but still...

    JW; Welcome to my boat.

    Alan; Perhaps it was unseasonably cold that day?

    Carol; Thanks for the tip. I'll use it.

    Jan; That was my thought as well! As for expressions, I have exactly the opposite problem; not letting any modern expressions leak in.

  14. Karen; Thanks! Here's to hoping I GET an editor!

  15. Oh gosh. Yes, I think I've faced all those demons. I just look out for them now and flag them for correction later.

    I keep half an eye on word count. No good getting too far off-target!

    Mystery Writing is Murder
    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

  16. As an editor those are three of the pet peeves of mine. I'm glad you have become aware of them, and know the feeling - I had the same issues myself. But 99.9% of being able to fix a problem is becoming aware of it. So - Good job!

    Marvin D Wilson

  17. Elizabeth; I'm doing the same thing; flagging them for work later. Later being the operative word.

    Old Silly; I'm certainly hoping awareness helps! Right now, I write on.

  18. Instead of having pure dialogue, my ms was riddled with useless (and annoying) dialogue tags. People were forever nodding, or grunting, or smiling, or... Much, much better now :)

  19. Jemi; I'm eternally grateful not to have encountered that particular whirlpool. Yet.

  20. I think I have largely avoided the talking heads trap.
    Word repetition was a huge issue for me. I was aware of it but i find it's one of those things that are very hard to pick out of my own writing. Thankfully my MS has been edited by a couple of of fantastic people.
    I think the chapter breaks will be obvious as you redraft.
    Voice is so hard and maintaining PoV. I have to say I have created a rod for my own back there, by having the whole MS in first person, but with multiple narrators!

  21. Al; I'm thinking the same thing about the chapter breaks. Your ms sounds very interesting! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment.

  22. That's a cool term...the 'talking head' syndrome. Those were great bits of advise. You seem to have the keen eye of an editor.

    A writing instructor in the past drummed into us about breaking up long sections of dialogue with small breaks of "what the characters are doing". Such as sipping a drink, answering the phone, etc.

  23. Hi Elspeth!

    Just wanted to drop by and let you know you have a little something waiting for you on my blog!

  24. Hiccup is a great word for yesterday's accomplishment: I searched through my manuscript for a character's POV scenes where I'd called him by his last name instead of his first name, and made all the changes. As a result, I added only 500+ words during the writing time when I should have added about 1,000. However, I'm glad the name-changing task is done, so I'm not really complaining.


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