Start Today, No Matter What #IWSG #nevergiveup #Writetip
[I wrote this post as a member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our worries and also offer support and encouragement to each other on the first Wednesday of every month. If you’re a writer like me and you’re looking for a bit of support, you can click the link and sign up here]
This month’s awesome co-hosts are: Me, Sandra Hoover, Lee Lowery, and the hilarious Susan Gourley!
There’ something very exciting you should know. Check out our IWSG homepage. Find out the news on the theme of the next anthology. I’m terribly excited! And as always, thank you to founder Alex J. Cavaugh 🙂
“Where should I start? I texted my old Jiko this question, and she wrote back this: … You should start where you are.”
― Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being
When you begin something new and different, it’s a silent mystery …
… unknown stories and characters unfold and develop across your page.
You set first deadlines. You’re excited when you meet them. Then before you know it you’ve done what you’ve set out to do so then what?
This month’s IWSG question asks: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?
Back in 2008, I made plenty of mistakes. You know what? I don’t regret a thing in the writing process. I do have one wish, and a wish isn’t really a regret, right? In any case, I wish I’d been armed with more information about the industry and today, it’s easier then ever to find out what works and what expectations publishers have for submissions. So here’s a list of my five top tips, and I must say I am by no means an editor.
- Genre word count.
Over a year ago, I attended a writing workshop and an agent mentioned my story synopsis was interesting, then she asked me if I knew what the standard word count for Young Adult was. I had no idea a cap existed and my word count would have sent a flurry of query rejections being 10,000 words over acceptable submissions.
- Wordiness Hurts more then Helps.
Be careful about describing a place or character too many times. Unless of course something changes drastically to change the mood or hint at the growth. Also combine setting with character action with the use of strong verbs and adjectives relative to the character.For Example from Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song:
- “Still humming, Kate returned to the liquor cabinet on the pew and uncorked the various bottles, anointing the seats, row after row, trying to make the contents last. She saved Mother Alice’s whiskey for the wooden podium at the front. A Bible sat open on top, and in the moment of superstition, Kate spared the book. Lobbing it out the open front door and onto the grass. When she stepped back inside, the damp, sweet smell of alcohol assaulted her senses. “
- In this example, we see not only strong verbs and adjectives, but they match with the character’s superstitious nature and a hint of where she’s been. Religious boarding school. And she’s trying as hard as she can to get out.
- Telling and Showing Action Scenes
I can’t begin to explain how difficult this task was as I started writing. So many people told me about it, but I couldn’t see it. Not until a fellow writing and author friend took my story and shared examples from it with me, then gave me a showing way to write the sentence. Finally, I got it.
- Effective Use of Dialogue Tags
Said and asked are correct dialogue tags to use. They’re natural transitions and become invisible to the reader:
“Sara’s head dipped for a fast moment in class, but she caught herself. She pinched her arm and willed her eyes open larger, up and down to stay awake.
“Rough night?” Betsy asked, gripping the back of Sara’s chair.
Sara elbowed her back and sat up straight. “Understatement of the year,” she said.
- Misplaced Modifiers
I learned about modifiers in a corporate writing training class. There are things called dangling modifiers and even misplaced modifiers. Be aware. The use or absence of them clouds the clarity of your writing.
So that’s it for today. Wow! A lot, I know, my head is spinning 🙂
The important thing to note is you have to do what you love. Write. Set deadlines. Write some more because you love it. Because you need to do something for you, even if it’s only 5 minutes a day 🙂
Happy IWSG day everyone! I’ll be jumping around visiting you too 🙂
P.S. The article I used for tips:
Posted on August 1, 2018, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 110 Comments.
Thanks for co-hosting this month. Great tips. I did learn early on about genre word counts, but I’m still working on wordiness and showing. I’m a work in progress and getting better all the time.
I don’t think you are alone Toi. Thank you for stopping in 🙂
It took a while for me to understand show versus tell. Once I saw it, I really got it though.
Thanks for co-hosting today!
It’s been a really fun experience Alex 🙂
Oh yes, I’ve had to learn the hard way about genre length, dialogue tags, and excessive wordiness. Great tips!
Thank you so much 🙂
All good tips, Erika. It’s been hard for me to tone down my wordiness, but getting there.
Oh yes, dear lady. You’re singing a song in my ears. I so agree with you and especially with
Thank you so much for co-hosting.
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange
Great tips. I am definitely guilty of querying a novel whose word count is too high.
I never knew Tamara 🙂
Thanks for serving as co-host this month. (So where are the snacks…?)
Great tips, all the way around. It’s too bad reading about common writing mistakes doesn’t prevent us from making them. 🙂
Very good points Susan and I can’t believe I forgot the cookies 😉
Fantastic tips, Erika! Show vs. tell is a constant struggle for me. One of these days maybe I’ll get the hang of it 🙂
Me too Ellen 🙂
These are great tips. Especially the one about the dialogue tags. Every time I see the number of people who have pinned the “alternatives to “said” graphic, I die a little inside.
Thanks for sharing
Your comment made me smile. Thank you for sharing your kind thoughts with me 🙂
Thanks for co-hosting today, Erika!
Writers are ALWAYS being told to “show” and not “tell” and it’s something I have constantly researched since my first writing mentor said it to me years ago. Some writers just naturally show everything; the rest of us have to work at it! But I know I’ve got the hang of it when my writing feels and reads more naturally.
I love how you know you’ve accomplished the “show” and not tell. That’s really great advice Jen 🙂
After all these years of writing, I still find misplaced modifiers in my first draft. I have improved a lot on the dialogue tags.
I am not surprised anymore when I go back through my drafts and find all sorts of little mistakes, missing words and areas I need to improve. Thank you Susan for cohosting with me 🙂
Yeah, it took me a lot of examples before show vs tell finally clicked with me. Oh, and the misplaced modifiers have bitten me a few times. Great tips as always, and thanks for co-hosting!
We really do need to focus on the basics. And the grammar issues are important. Our words are our tools, and if they’re not sharp and to the point, the story gets lost. Thanks for co-hosting today!
I agree Lee. It was a hard lesson to learn as a beginning writer 🙂
Hi Erika, I’m stunned you forgot the cookies! You were so intent on trying out that new recipe. Love the double meaning about cookies and the hidden message (blogs/websites/collecting cookies) very clever.
I’ve had a similar experience as the one you described in your show vs tell tip. It makes a huge difference when someone uses our own work to teach. Thanks heaps for co-hosting this months IWSG blog hop.
I appreciate your sweet thoughts Lynn. Great writing coaches are life changing 🙂
I still struggle with Show vs Tell and I constantly go back to study it. Love the list, thanks Erika!
Thank you for stopping in Gwen 🙂
Thank you for co-hosting!
I need to find out what dangling modifiers are. They sound dangerous. 🙂
They are 🙂 Once you know about them you will be extra careful. That’s how I am. 🙂
Very helpful, Erika. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Anna from elements of emaginette
Thank you for stopping by Anna 🙂
Thanks for co-hosting and for the great tips. Real writers strive to improve by reading about writing and by writing. Thanks for your help.
I agree, Eugene. We must continue to research. Growth is important in any profession 🙂
I couldn’t think of any regrets either. It made me wonder if the pit is still out there lurking and I just haven’t fallen in it yet. *shudder*
Thanks for the great tips and for Co-hosting IWSG.
Maybe you are the lucky one who only sees a little divot in the ground. 🙂
Thanks for hosting this month, Erika. Great tips!
It was my pleasure 🙂
Yes! to this – “The important thing to note is you have to do what you love. Write.”
Thank you Madeline 🙂
Thanks for co-hosting, Erika! And thanks for the great tips. Except for genre count, I used these very tips with my third graders ~ sage advice no matter your age!
Your third graders are so lucky to have you 🙂
You’ve given an excellent checklist for writers, Erika. Thanks. And thanks for hosting today. Great job. Great post.
It’s wonderful to hear from you Lee 🙂
Many writers don’t realize how important word count is. I get submissions that are either too short or way too long. I let the writer know, but I’m sure most of the time he/she ignores it, thinking it won’t matter.
One thing you said struck me. About you not regretting anything. Every experience teaches one something, and adds to the writing ability.
Wonderful tips, Erika! Thanks for sharing and for co-hosting!
I enjoyed it very much Lori 🙂
Good tips, Erika, and I’m with you–I don’t regret my mistakes. I learned a lot from them, probably more than I would have by avoiding them.
Me too Jacqui. I think as writers we have to learn to embrace our mistakes and move on. 🙂
We learn as we go and the right feedback can be invaluable. I often have that getting started problem and when I do get started I have usually given up along the way for one reason or another. I like the #nevergiveup hash tag–it’s the theme of my current writing project which is an original song I’ve been referring to on my blog of late. When I do something with even a modicum of success then it inspires me to keep moving forward.
Thanks for co-hosting!
Tossing It Out
I love how positive you are Arlee. Music is truly an art and I wish I could have learned to read notes but all I see is a pattern of shapes. Thank you for stopping in 🙂
I enjoyed your post, Erika, and agree with every word! You gave some great tips that every author should take note of! Thanks for co-hosting, and have a great week!
I appreciate your sweet words Sandra. Thank you for stopping in today 🙂
Good advice, all of it. Clunky dialogue tags are one of my pet peeves as a reader. Some writers just can’t leave that thesaurus alone. I tend to leave tags out whenever possible, replacing them with a physical action when clarification is needed.
Wishing you happy writing in August!
Thank you so much Rhonda for stopping in and sharing your helpful thoughts. I try the same unless the character needs clarification so the reader isn’t lost in who is truly speaking 🙂
Great tips, Erika. I think the trick is to start using them automatically, which only seems to happen after a lot of practice (and reading correct examples and gripping books). Thanks for co-hosting!
It was my pleasure Liesbet. Thank you for stopping in today 🙂
Excellent post! :Start where you are,” – I love that!
Thank you Diedre 🙂
Great post, Erika! After reissuing some of my early book – Wow! It’s surprising how much you learn with experience (at least that’s the plan). I’m still picking up new things to make my writing better and usually from the most unexpected places. Thanks for co-hosting!
Thank you for stopping in Nancy 🙂
Hello, and thank you for hosting this months IWSG post! Great tips. I’m currently reading “This Savage Song!” I love Schwab’s writing. She’s so talented!!
Me too Kathy!
Great tips! I’ve learned a lot from my years of writing too. I trimmed back my wordiness and then got too stiff with it and had to find the fine line in between. Thanks for co-hosting today.
I did the same thing Christine. It is so hard to find the balance. I like to study my favorite authors for ideas 🙂
Thanks for all these great tips. All are good!
Thank you for stopping in Nas 🙂
Hey, good info in your post. Yes, I struggled with all the points you mention. Well, I need to do some googling for the dangling modifiers. I was called on that and never really looked it up to iron out the problem. Thank goodness for editors. I believe we learn something from every story we start and finish. I cringe when I read stories I wrote many years ago. Thanks for co-hosting today!!
You are not alone Jackie. I cringe too but that’s ok 🙂
I appreciate you stopping in today Janet. I always feel in the dangling modifier trap. I wanted to give some examples but was afraid my post would be too long 🙂
So nice to meet you, Erika. Great tips. I’m saving them as a reminder when I forget. Thanks for co-hosting today and for visiting my blog.
It’s so nice to meet you too Beverly 🙂
It’s lovely to meet you too Beverly. 🙂
Good, succinct tips! Thank you for co-hosting this month.
It was a really great experience. Thank you for stopping in 🙂
Thanks for the great tips. And thanks for co-hosting this month.
You’re welcome Diane. It was my pleasure 🙂
Great tips! Thanks for sharing! (and co-hosting!)
It was such a wonderful experience 🙂
Being armed with information is a great way to describe it. Thanks for co-hosting!
It was my pleasure 🙂
I would’ve never known some genres had word count caps, good to know! And I loved the writing tips, but my favorite was “write some more, because you love it.” 👍
Yes, I agree! When it comes from the heart it is so real 🙂
Yes it is. Make sure to research your genre carefully before you submit. 🙂
Great tips and thanks for co-hosting. I’m so excited you’ll be working with Heather!
I especially appreciate the advice to remember what you love about writing. @mirymom1 from
Thank you so much 🙂
I hack away at all my manuscripts. Great tips, and great post! Thank you for co-hosting.
It was my pleasure Adrienne 🙂
What a great list of tips. You put so much work into this Erika. Well done!
This is such great advice, and I adore the dialogue tag advice. Also, I’d never even thought about exceeding genre word count leading to rejections. That is an eye opener.
Thank you. I was blown away when the agent mentioned the new loophole for rejections. I guess it is a fairly New standard.
Oh, man! There was so much I didn’t know when I started, and so many things would have been easier if I’d known then! (even to fact that my blog doesn’t feature my name is part of that–it would be fine if it linked to/from a web page on my name, but no. Not even that 🙂
My IWSG Post
Great post and tips. You know even knowing some those things and understanding I still find it hard to auto put them to use and still overlook them not recognizing wrong use, e.g. modifiers and showing rather than telling.
Great tips! It’s stuff I try to address in critique group, but a couple people have no interest in listening.
Such great advice. I tended to overexplain every little thing. Who am I kidding? I still do. I’m the worst! 😉
Thank you for co-hosting!
Thank you for your honesty Elsie. I may too
Then edit it down 🙂
Great list, Erika. Thanks for co-hosting this month.
Thanks for co-hosting this month! Wordiness has always been my Achilles heel. Hopefully, I’ve gotten better over the years.
Great tips. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks for co-hosting this week, and for the great tips. Good reminders…
Thanks very much for co-hosting and visiting me this month.
Interesting points made, although I suspect that the wordcount for genres should be a guideline, not as hard a rule as you suggest. It seems all the publication rules are there to be used by publishers/agents to get rid of you, and then they pick something that breaks them anyway.
I really have a hard time with setting/world-building. Most of my books start out as “talking heads” and I don’t quite know where the characters will land, lol.
Thanks for the tips! I’m still trying to cut down on wordiness and over-explaining, it’s been my biggest learning curve. It’s a tricky balance to give the reader enough to fill in the blanks without leaving them in the dark.
Thanks for sharing those pieces of advice. I could definitely use someone to help me see how I use showing vs. telling. Dialogue is also something I tend to overthink.
So I’m not a huge fan of dialog tags. It’s a preference thing. If you can point to who is speaking through action, that’s my preferred method. Said and asked become very annoying (like any word) when overused.
Interesting thoughts here. Thank you.
Sorry for the late visit, Erika!
Yes, you need to do something even if it’s only 5 minutes a day 🙂. Every word counts.
I write sparingly, so my problem is the opposite… never enough words.
Thank you for co-hosting the hop this month!
You’re most welcome Michelle 🙂
Useful post. Thanks