Thursday, October 25, 2012

The 5 Biggest Writing Blunders

As I look over the title of this post, I realize there are no ‘biggest’ blunders applicable to every writer. Each one of us has her own litany of worst blunders. Often they’re mistakes we make over and over without realizing it, unless someone points them out to us.

Most writers are familiar with the most common blunders because editors and bloggers and craft books repeat them ad nauseum. And I’m going to repeat a few warnings, too. Here goes.

Show, don’t tell.
Don’t overuse adjectives and adverbs.
Use strong verbs.
Start your story at the right spot – not too early, not too late.
Don’t use clichés or overuse certain words. We all have our favorites.
Do your research, but don’t overdo, and don’t include all of it in your text.
Send your story to a publisher that buys the kind of books you write.
Use your dictionary more than your Thesaurus.

Here are 5 blunders that tend to trip me up every time:

Blunder # 1 -- Editing as you write.
Second guessing yourself slows you down and makes you afraid to let your story flow. You’ll probably lose your confidence and decide the story idea isn’t worth pursuing. You might decide your writing is amateurish and unworthy of publication. Editing as you go can make the text sound stiff. It can change your natural voice so your writing sounds generic and the product of too many critique partners.

Don’t judge your writing as you write because you might not finish. It’ll never seem good enough to continue on. At this point, you’re too close to the material to judge whether it’s any good. Go back later and revise when the words aren’t fresh in your mind. Often we leave part of the meaning in our heads and not on the screen because we’re too involved to tell the difference.

Sometimes we fall in love with our sparkling words and think they’re too perfect to cut. Truly, it’s not like cutting your heart out. If you won’t cut the excess then either you won’t sell your story, or if you do, your editor will delete those words for you. It’s less painful if you do it yourself.

Blunder #2 -- Forgetting your theme.
Theme is what you’re trying to tell the reader through the story. Can you convey your theme in one sentence? I try to keep my theme simple and clear and most of all I try to remember it. Sometimes I get so carried away with my characters or my plot, I forget the theme should be woven in.

I think it’s safe to say the theme of romance novels is Love conquers all. Inspirational themes might include forgiveness, trust in God, or redemption. A Bible verse could become your theme.

You don’t want your reader to think you’re writing about one thing on page one only to discover on page five you’ve changed your theme. At the same time, don’t be too obvious. Or too subtle! You don’t want the reader to be so caught up in the story he can’t see the message. It’s a balancing act. The reader should understand the theme by the end of the book.

Remember the theme might be perfectly clear to you, but readers might interpret it differently. We’re all subjective. We see things through the lens of our own experiences.

If you tend to forget what your story is trying to say, or if you have a habit of changing it mid-stream, write out your theme and keep the reminder near your computer.

Remember theme is not plot.

Blunder #3 -- Preaching.
I find a lot more preaching in inspirational novels than in any other type of book. Does any one agree or do you disagree? Christian writers have a message and they don’t want their readers to miss it. It’s a crucial part of the genre. But don’t try to oversell it. As I said before, keep the message subtle enough so a reader won’t want to throw the book across the room because it’s too preachy. Not everyone appreciates a 300 page sermon. Consider your audience. Is it made of readers who believe as you do, or readers who have a different world view? Who are you writing for? Of course you probably want to write for both audiences, but remember, it’s tricky to appeal to everyone.

To avoid preaching, show, don’t tell. So much comes back to that. Showing will make your point clearer and more memorable. It’s easy to remember a great scene.

Blunder #4 – Forgetting Story Structure.
I’m NOT suggesting you plot if that isn’t how you write. We’re all write differently. One way isn’t better than another. But every genre story has a beginning, middle and end. Know your plot points and know what readers expect from the genre you’re writing. A romance needs a happy ending; a mystery is satisfying when the villain in caught and justice is served.

If you let your characters write their own story without your guidance they might have a difficult journey finding their way to their final destination. That’s fine if you don’t mind spending a lot of time revising and rewriting. Some writers look at their first draft as another type of outline. It works for them and that’s what counts.

I know writers who could never follow an outline, but they instinctively know where they’re going and stick to a path they know will lead to a great ending. They don’t know their plot points in advance, but they understand when those changes in the story should occur. That probably takes some experience.

Either way, a genre story must have some structure.

I like some kind of outline because I’m easily lost. I’m apt to put scenes in the wrong place. But as long as I know when something important/a change in direction (plot point) is coming, I feel free to let my imagination go wild. There are a lot of ways to get from Point A to Point B, so I trust myself to find the best way. Sometimes I run amok and have to cut a scene along the way. So be it. I’ll just write another one.

Blunder #5 – Being Arrogant.
Obviously a writer knows her story better than anyone else. But she might not be able to see that she’s not telling it in the best way for her readers. A story can be as vivid as primary colors to a writer, but to a reader it’s gray. What your trying so hard to convey isn’t coming across.

Your editor can see this. So trust her advice, especially if you’re a new writer. Don’t think you always know best just because you’re the creator. No editor likes a know-it-all, particularly one who’s wrong and can’t see it. Or admit it. Be teachable and humble.

Do you have any blunders to add to the list?

In honor of Seekerville’s 5th birthday, I’m giving away 5 Starbuck gift cards and 5 one-page critiques. Please leave your e-mail address.

Here’s the cover of the German version of Love on a Dime.


Jamie Adams said...

It's so hard for me not to edit as I write. I'm working on it. I'll have to think on blunders to add tomorrow when I'm more awake... it's past my bedtime.

Happy birthday Seekerville!

Helen Gray said...

The coffee pot is set.

I like a bare bones outline, and the freedom to feel my way along for the details.

For the first time I'm trying to write a synopsis before writing the book--and finding it tough.


Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Hi Cara! The life of a writer seems like a difficult one but I'm enjoying seeing what makes you guys all tick! Those are definitely some good points you made. I know as a reader I don't like being preached at and I love when a book finds that perfect balance, it doesn't happen often but when it does it's magic! There are some books I'd only recommend to long-time CF readers and there are different books I'd recommend to "newbies" who might be wary of being preached too.

Lyndee said...

Thanks for the post, Cara Lynn. The woman on your German Love on a Dime cover looks a lot like Nicole Kidman to me.

Re: structure - I'm blessed with an innate ability to determine the beginning, middle and end of my story. I honed it as a reporter dogged with deadlines that required churning out copy. I usually write books the same way from page one to the end. But recently, (despite an outline) I wrote an important chapter only to discover that it was way too early in the book, so I had to move it out and start again to fill in the storyline. I'm discombobulated now, lol. But I'm just gonna keep at it! I know it will be right and the two sides will connect in the middle!

Christina said...

I, too, am finding it difficult to keep the editing hat off as I write. I guess I need to relearn how to vomit my words onto the page.

christinainspirationals at gmail dot com

Melissa Jagears said...

Well, you know, I don't do any of these ...definitely not #5, I make no blunders, don't even have to edit, what I type is perfect, don't even have to use the backspace, I'm that good. ;P

Really, I agree with it all, just had to write something "snarky" since someone at conference said I was the "snarky Seekerville commenter" so I can get my name in the hat. :)

Tea norman said...

Oh, I really needed those five pts. They will help me on my writing journey. Need to come by more often.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

"Sometimes I get so carried away with my characters or my plot, I forget the theme should be woven in."

hhaha! So true! Somwtimws I get to Chapter 12 and I'm loving my story and realize... I've gone off on a whole different book. I'm actually at Chapter 4 of book TWO.

About being teachable and humble... I've had such a gret experience with Love Inspired- the editor made it EASY to be teachable and humble.

You know, when someone says 'why don't we try this?' instead of saying 'no, this is total crap'.

I probably deserved some 'total crap' lines but I always got the soft and gentle version.

My critique partners are the same. So lovely, it's easy to let down my guard and realize they're SO, SO RIGHT and I need to make changes.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...


Geez. I do need an editor...

karenk said...

another wonderful posting...thanks for sharing, cara

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Susan Codone said...

A tiny blunder, but one I have to catch, is overusing (or using) words like "that" and "just" and "she thought" and "she felt". Also, I'm learning more about how to make your characters likeable right away.

Please enter me in the drawing! And thanks for the advice.

Jackie said...

Hi Cara,

Theme is the blunder I struggle with. I write it down and then find myself going in a different direction.

Thanks for sharing this morning. Please toss my name in the hat for your drawing.

Jackie L.


Thanks for sharing your German cover. It's very pretty.

Bridgett Henson said...

Love on a Dime is published in Germany? How cool is that!!!

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Jamie! I still find it hard not to edit every sentence or paragraph. So I get as far as I can (a page at least) before I re-read. I just don't obsess over every word like I used to until it's time to edit.

I can't write an entire scene without going back to re-read, but I don't look things up as I write (example: research questions) or try to think of a better way to say things. That comes later because it's so time consuming.

Cara Lynn James said...

Good morning, Helen! Writing a synopsis without having the book written first is tough. For me, sticking to the synopsis or outline is even harder. My tendency to wander is so strong it's difficult to keep my focus.

A bare bones outline is the best way to go for me too. It's interesting how all of us have different methods.

Amy Campbell said...

Wow! I would be editing as I went. Now, I know to stop that.
Thanks for the tips.

Julie Steele said...

Cara, thanks for this post.

Oh, I am such a perfectionist. Editing as I go is temptation on a plate with chocolate sauce.

I keep my goal/theme sheet in front of me. Learned that one the hard way.

Story structure. Sigh, it is why I am watching and reading anything the Plot Whisperer has to offer.

Christina, " I guess I need to relearn how to vomit my words onto the page." Thanks for my morning belly laugh. I can get on with my day now.

Sending out Pumpkin Whoopies, Pumpkin butter, Pumpkin lattes!

Peace, Julie

Cara Lynn James said...

Renee, I don't like to be preached at in a book either. Lots of people don't mind at all. I think the actual story determines the level of spirituality. Some stories call for a call, others don't.

Debra E. Marvin said...

I found this quote while reading BLOCKBUSTER PLOTS yesterday:

Months after having read a story, a reader often cannot recall specific scenes, yet that same reader is likely to remember the growth of the main character.

I think I need to read that quote often and ask myself if what I've written each day is contributing to memorable character growth.

I'm making pumpkin pancakes to order today, because that's just the kind of girl I am. You want to fill up before you go on a scavenger hunt, right?

Cara Lynn James said...

Lyndee, I wish I had the ability to write straight through from beginning to end without second guessing myself or tinkering with words or scenes. In real life I don't have trouble making a decision, but when it comes to writing, I really do!

I'd like to write the beginning and the end and then find there's no need for a middle. No muddle that way.

Cara Lynn James said...

No, Christina, NOT vomit -- go with the flow!!!!!!! Actually, sometimes it's more like vomiting than anything else.

Cara Lynn James said...

Melissa, you're not snarky -- you're the Seekerville genius!!!!!!

I've heard of a few writers who claim they don't use an outline and then write without revising as they go. They're so good they don't need much editing at the end. Do you believe it???

Rose said...


Thanks for sharing your foreign cover. That is always fun to see!

You did a great job covering blunders. I can't think of any to add to but I do really think THEME is important in writing and you have to thread it through your story subtly.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, CARA! This is definitely a keeper post! I think the "inspiration" in inspirational fiction needs to be woven into the story itself--who the characters are and how they think and behave, the faith struggles they have and how they overcome them. For me, it seems "preachy" if the book is sailing along with little spiritual reference for the most part and then all of a sudden the story comes to a screeching halt for "a word from our heavenly sponsor." It just seems stuck in as if the author remembered "oh, yeah, I'm supposed to be writing for the inspirational market, I guess I need to get my obligatory God stuff in there." :)

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, AMEN, CARA!!! I agree with Glynna that this is one of those keeper posts to refresh with on every ms. because in those early stages, we all need as much help and direction as we can get!!

And OH MY, I LOVE the German cover of Love on a Dime, although I thought it might be "Love on a Mark" ... ;)

One thing I do NOT understand is why foreign markets redo the covers of American books -- isn't that like recreating the wheel???


Cara Lynn James said...

Tea norman, thanks for stopping by today. Hope you become a regular! We appreciate visitors.

Cara Lynn James said...

Virginia, the soft approach works best with me too! I can be too direct sometimes (snarky), but I hate that attitude turned on me!

If I don't keep my theme front and center, then I forget what it is and how important it is. It should be subtle on the page, but not in my mind. Sigh.

Jeanne T said...

Such great points, Cara. As has been mentioned, keeping the theme front and center is key. My other thing is keeping my heroine likeable, which also means keeping her character consistent. She's been my struggle from the beginning.

This may or may not be a blunder, but I've read books where the scenes don't have much tension. This seems pretty crucial to keep a story moving forward.

I'm definitely a plotter. I've learned how to turn off my internal editor when I'm fast-drafting. It's the revising that's getting me. I keep thinking of things I need to do to make my story better.

Humility is key on this journey, isn't it? Teachability, too.

Thanks, Cara! I'd love to be entered in the drawings.

wetalk2biz(at)q(lowercase Q)dotcom

Jeanne T said...

MELISSA--you are not snarky. I love your humor and straightforward way of saying things. :) And you are brilliant!

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Karenk, I'm so glad you're here today and got something out of the post.

Cara Lynn James said...

Susan, I overuse the same words too. I catch them while I revise.

My favorite word is just. I use it all the time because it JUST seems to fit so well.

Diane Kenyon said...

My biggest blunder is definitely editing as I write. I'm one of those natural copy-editors who finds every mistake in a book without trying, so it's hard to write past mistakes I've made. Any advice?

Carol Moncado said...

My inner editor already has her tickets for the Caymans for the entire month of November. Just going with the flow and writing w/o much editing is easy for me. But once I'm done I go back over it at least 2-3xs before sending it out to critique partners. At least.

Sometimes more.

But seriously, all it takes is opening a blank file for her to head for the airport.

On a totally different note... my new laptop will be here this afternoon!!!!!!! WOOHOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [Along with two new books - one package from Best Buy, the other two from Amazon - and since I sent my historical out to CPs I can READ for the next few days while I wait for it to come back :D].

Helen - writing the synop before the book? /shudder/

Cara Lynn James said...

Jackie, The Moral Premise by Stanley D. Williams is a great book about theme.

Some writers find their theme after they finish their manuscript, but if I try that, I find several half baked themes. Not one. We need one predominant theme.

Cara Lynn James said...

Bridgett, yup, Love on a Dime was published in Germany and was released in August. It's even on with its title in German, Eine Liebe in Summerhill. A love in Summerhill. They probably changed the title because it didn't make sense in German.

Cara Lynn James said...

Amy, I find it SO hard not to edit as I go. I guess it's a matter of discipline -- not my strong point.

Cara Lynn James said...

Julie, thanks for all the 'pumpkin food.' I once made a pumpkin pie from scratch. It was lots of work and not as good as making it using canned pumpkin. I'm not a good pie maker anyway.

I love the Plot Whisperer, too!

Here's a tip -- I put a few sentences about GMC in red at the beginning of every scene. It helps me stay focussed. I also add any notes I think might help.

Cara Lynn James said...

Debra, you're so right about character growth. That's usually what character driven stories are all about.

I've never had pumpkin pancakes but I bet they're delicious. I made pumpkin bread last week. No one even tried it except me. They missed out because it was wonderful.

Missy Tippens said...

Great points, Cara!

A blunder I've seen others commit is not really in the writing but in the writing life. Do NOT vent about contest feedback or editor/agent rejections online or in public!! Choose a trusted friend to vent to privately if you need to. But no public discussion! This could come back to bite you.

Janet Dean said...

Excellent post, Cara! I tend to edit as I go. I'm hopelessly critical of me. But not editing doesn't seem to work.

Love your German cover! Fun to think your book is blessing others in Germany.

Melissa, grinning at your snarky comment. You're spicing things up in Seekerville.

Thanks for the yummy pumpkin treats, Julie HS and Debra!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Morning Seekervillians and Miss Snark. LOL.

Loving that German cover, Cara. Congratulations!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Cara, Great post. I'm so in agreement with Julie and Glynna to print this out and REMIND myself of all of these points.

Melissa we love snarky. LOL

Glad so many of you are getting so much from the Plot Whisperer.

Jeanne T said...

This is off subject, but Tina, I loved your post over at ACFW. Nicely done!

CatMom said...

Awesome post, Cara--great, straightforward reminders that I need to print and keep by my computer! ~ I tend to edit as I go, which ends up driving me crazy, LOL. So I'm striving to let the story flow and then go back and edit---some days that's easier to do than on other days *sigh*--maybe it depends on how much COFFEE I've had! ~ LOVE the German cover of your book--beautiful! Thank you again for sharing, and have a terrific Thursday! Blessings, Patti Jo

DebH said...

This blunder list is great to re-check. my present big blunder is not getting the writing done *heavy sigh*. i like to write a bunch and then revise, but i think i should actually finish something before revising. i've too many partial MSs floating in the ether of my laptop at present.

i also want to become a helpful, good CP. i want to let my opinion come across as just my opinion and not mean/snarky/better than thou (because if i haven't finished an MS, i definitely am NOT).

love the post and all the bonus info in the commentary here!

Annie Rains said...

Thank you for the wonderful post! I'm guilty of all the blunders here. And I completely agree with your advice not to revise as you go. I did that for a long time and would get so frustrated and stuck. I'd also lose the momentum of my story. I like fast drafting first, then going back and doing revision after revision, after revision. :)

I love pumpkin treats. Yum. Goes nice with my Hazelnut coffee.

Melanie Dickerson said...

GREAT post, Cara!!! I will add a blunder. Last night I was reading a review on a blog of a Christian romance novel from a multi-published author. It was the fourth book in a series, and the reviewer said the theme was "typical Christian fiction." She said the fact that the hero got saved halfway through the book was cliche and predictable. Everything worked out perfectly and easily in the end. She talked a lot about how "typical" the book was. Wow, the last thing I want my book to be is typical! So this was a warning to me. I honestly do think it is easy to sort of "go through the motions" and not bring in something new and surprising in our plots and themes, especially when we're writing a series. I soooooo don't want to do that!

I really liked what you said, Cara: "If you let your characters write their own story without your guidance they might have a difficult journey finding their way to their final destination." I think that is true for me. I don't outline, but I do really think about the plot, what will work and what won't. If I let the story just go its own way, I end up having to backtrack and change it later. I have to really put a lot of thought into each twist and turn of the story. If that makes sense.

I also liked what you said about not editing as you write, and how it causes you to second guess yourself and lose confidence. You said: "Don’t judge your writing as you write because you might not finish."

Great points, Cara!

Marianne said...

Great post. The biggest beef i have about inspirational novels is that a few preachy ones spoil it for the rest at least to a new reader! Thanks for sharing with us.

Debra E. Marvin said...

Cara's first point of not editing as you go is going to be really important with NANO coming up.

Feel free to write something like And then she does something here and keep going. Use cliches, tell all you want, adverb your way into oblivion. But let your story flow because the characters have a lot they want to let you know...


I am obsessive about charts and plots and have notes and notes about my characters and what happens. I find if I don't revisit the 'what does she want right now and how is she feeling about it, before every scene, I can lose touch with the emotions and get caught up in the plot.

oh, and that's real NY State maple syrup with those pancakes...

Cara Lynn James said...

Good morning, Rose!

Some stories have themes that are so obvious they speak for themselves. I think forgiveness is one of them. It's usually very integrated into the plot. Everyone recognizes the need to forgive, I think. Doing it is another thing.

Some themes are much harder to get across.

Myra Johnson said...

Super advice, Cara! I began the revising stage of my wip this week, and it's made me think even harder about the theme or premise. Originally I thought the premise would take the story primarily in one direction, but as the book evolved, I came to realize the true premise was something else entirely. So now, in revisions, I'm having to shore up the real premise and tone down references to the secondary premise so readers aren't led astray.

BTW, I LOVE the German cover of your book--and the title, too! How fun! But, as Julie said, it's interesting that foreign versions don't just use the original cover. I wonder why.

Donna said...

What a thought provoking post, Cara. I have a few questions...

Cara said: Use your dictionary more than your Thesaurus.
Why is that?

I put a few sentences about GMC in red at the beginning of every scene.
Do you mean you actually write sentences reflecting the characters GMC in the beginning of the scene or that you write them as notes to yourself?

I'm off to read Tina's ACFW post! Thanks for the reminder Jeanne!

Cara Lynn James said...

Glynna, it annoys me when the theme isn't obvious in inspirationals, but at the end it's hammered home. It's as if the author realizes she's been TOO subtle, finds it too difficult to weave in, so she feels obligated to get it across somehow. It's definitely one of my pet peeves. But to be fair, the writer probably knows her editor will ask her to add it into the book.

Cara Lynn James said...

Glynna, it annoys me when the theme isn't obvious in inspirationals, but at the end it's hammered home. It's as if the author realizes she's been TOO subtle, finds it too difficult to weave in, so she feels obligated to get it across somehow. It's definitely one of my pet peeves. But to be fair, the writer probably knows her editor will ask her to add it into the book.

Jan Drexler said...

Cara, this was a great post!

And, of course, I've committed every one of those five blunders...

Another one I'm guilty of quite often is letting other things pull me away from my writing time. If I'm not careful, days will have gone by with very little progress on my WIP.

BTW - that hasn't happened this week :), but I need to be on guard every day!

Your German cover is fantastic. How cool to think of that expanded audience!

And yes, please put me in for the drawing -


Cara Lynn James said...

LOL, Julie! Yes, the title could be Love on a Mark or Love on a Euro.

Maybe it's cheaper for them to have their art department design a new cover. I don't have a clue.

I was so glad there's now a German version since I'm half German. (Really German-American.) But I can't speak it or read it.

Cara Lynn James said...

Jeanne, I agree keeping the tension up is so important.

Sometimes I make my heroine slightly unlikable (better to say flawed) because I want her growth to be apparent. But I've always had to sweeten her up at the beginning. Not very realistic, but necessary if you want a reader to get beyond page 1.

Cara Lynn James said...

Missy, you're exactly right about venting about contest judges! You don't know who the judges are so you could be venting to her!!!!!!!

Cara Lynn James said...

Diane, my advice is don't re-read until you come to the end of the chapter. Then just go through it once and fix the major things. It's so hard not to tinker.

Ideally we should go to the end with a fast first draft, but I can't get that far. You can still make good progress if you re-read the previous chapter from the day before, make a few easy changes, and then continue to write.

Melinda said...

Thanks for all the blunders that I really did not think about. I am a writer too and I love when I get more tricks of the trade. Thank you for sharing I sure will be using them.

Have a great day


Mary Connealy said...

I edit as I write. Uh oh

Mary Connealy said...

I have learned to stop preaching. Much. :)
I had a book edited by Jeff Gerke once, Ten Plagues and there was a preaching scene and Jeff typed in this comment, "No No No No!"

It was a strong lesson.

Myra Johnson said...

I edit as I write, too, Mary. I can't help it. For one thing, rereading and polishing what I wrote yesterday is a quick way to get back in the story. For another, it saves time when it's REALLY time to edit!

And the truth is, I think really hard about every word, phrase, and sentence I write. The rhythm has to feel right. The words have to mean what I want them to mean. I guess that's just the perfectionist in me.

But it's been working so far (I can only assume, since I still have a publisher and am meeting my deadlines), so I'm not inclined to change. :)

Susan Anne Mason said...

Great tips, Cara!

Anyone struggling with the internal editor should try NaNo. That's what cured me - or at least showed me how fast I could write a book without constantly revising every word I wrote the day before. Very freeing!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cara, this is a great post of what-nots!

If you're a newbie, this all comes with practice because you get tired of correcting the same stupid mistakes.

But when you're new, it seems like WHOA....

Stop the bus.

So this is a printer-offer, a how-to guide for writers of all genres. This clearly helps us side-step mistakes that cost us time (EEEEK!!!) and money (DOUBLE EEEEEEK!)

Helen, thank you for the coffee!

Lyndee, that gift you have shows clearly in your work. I was amazed that you were a newbie (and possibly INSANELY JEALOUS!!!) when I first read your stuff. Your journalism career gave you a strong leg up.



Susan Anne Mason said...

Oops, forgot my email

sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Carol! Enjoy your new computer today!!! My new Kindle (never had one before) came in the mail 5 minutes ago. It's charging as I write.

You're lucky you can write without editing. I wish I didn't have those editing tendencies. Maybe I should be an editor. But I'd be too picky.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Janet! Just wondering if editing as you go keeps you from having to make a lot of revisions after you're finished. Does it help?

Cara Lynn James said...

Good morning, Tina! I hope you're having a great day and having some time to write. I know it's hard for you to find enough time.

Glad you like the German cover. I do too.

Cara Lynn James said...

Sandra, the Plot Whisperer is terrific! Believe me, I need all the help I can get.

BTW, I love your new Amazon cover!

Robin said...

I'm a tinkerer - and not a plotter. I see the big picture, but figure out the details as I go. Then I edit as a I go. Not sure I'll ever be able to change that. Thanks for the list.


Cara Lynn James said...

Patti Jo, I'm noticing from all the comments about editing as you go, it's a common problem for many of us. I think the problem comes when we let it slow our productivity down. Maybe we should set time limits on exactly how much time we spend per scene before we move on. Just a thought.

I put everything I have to look up later in red so I can't miss it. If I stop and fix I might not get back to where I should be. I'm easily distracted by google.

Kav said...

Argh!!! Editing as I go. That's my biggest blunder. Such a nasty habit to break too. :-(

Love the German cover, Cara. Any idea why they always change book covers when they publish a foreign edition?

Keli Gwyn said...

Great list, Cara. I love to edit, so writing a first draft can be hard for me. My natural tendency is to analyze every word. What I have to do is bind and gag my Internal Editor, assuring her she'll get her turn later.

Congratulations on your book being translated into German. Das ist wunderbar!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Cara!

Great info on blunders.

My problem is #1.

On first review, the story always seems flawed. That's when I need to remember that the writing improves with each revision.

Melissa Jagears said...

Glynna asked yesterday what my novella was about --it's about my secondary characters (it's actually more of a short story) from my book...and I've never written a short story either, will see how it goes.

Cara, I've heard those stories about people who produce two pages a week and they are perfect pages. I just can't imagine but then I can't imagine people who only have a character in mind and then just start to write either, so I'll just have to take their word for it.

And I'm echoing the biggest blunder is letting stupid stuff crowd out writing time. I procrastinate but once I get started, I could do it all day. I'm smart enough to know if I just start right off, it's not a dreaded thing, but I'm intimidated from doing the work for some reason, procrastinate until my time is almost up and then start and have a blast. I think it's how labor intensive it is maybe, the piddly stuff requires much fewer brain cells. I appear productive, but I know I could be more so, if only I could harness my procrastination, who knows, I could write 3 books a year instead of 1.5.

Cara Lynn James said...

Deb, I have 5 or 6 partials resting in my computer gathering cyber dust. I'd like to eventually finish them, but right now only 1 has my undivided interest. So I can definitely understand where you're at.

Cara Lynn James said...

Annie, you make a great point about losing the story's momentum if you stay in one place too long. If I revive too much I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. It's hard to get going again.

Cara Lynn James said...

Mel, I think you outline, but it's in your head instead of on the paper. It's the same thing. I put everything down so I won't forget. (That comes with advancing age -- not that I know anything about that!).

As writers we can try to have a unusual theme or at least not one that's really overdone.

Cara Lynn James said...

Marianne, I think it's difficult to find a middle ground between preachy and so unpreachy you can't see a theme. Some will like one type, but not the other. It's so subjective.

Cara Lynn James said...

Debra, thanks for the real maple syrup! After living 20 years in Vermont, I can't stand anything but the real thing.

I think NANO would really help turn off that internal editor!

Cara Lynn James said...

Myra, when I finished A Path toward Love I realized my theme had changed. So I fixed the beginning to reflect. But when I read a book I really don't pay much attention to theme. I'd probably miss it if it wasn't there.

Cara Lynn James said...

Donna, the notes about GMC are only for myself as reminders. They keep me from wandering off. I delete them at the end of the story.

A dictionary gives an exact definition. A Thesaurus gives several word choices that are close, but they probably won't all be as exact as you'd like. So you should take the word from a Thesaurus and look it up in the dictionary before you use it.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Yes, Melissa is our resident smart girl!

In smarty pants.

Cara Lynn James said...

Jan, sometimes I find I've spent a week or two not actually writing on my wip. I've worked on related things -- done research etc. but not written. It's easy to do.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Melinda! I really could've listed a lot more blunders, but I figured I had enough!

Cara Lynn James said...

Mary, preacher no more! If I need to 'preach' in my stories, I usually have a church scene and let the pastor do the preaching. It seems appropriate.

Donna said...

Thanks Cara! I think the tip about the GMC notes is a great idea. I'm going to try it!

Cara Lynn James said...

Okay Myra, I have to agree you method is working really well for you. But for anyone who doesn't make the progress she wants to, then she (or he) should try to turn the internal editor off and just write! A deadline should do the trick. Or NaNo.

Janet Dean said...

Cara, no, I still revise after I'm done with the book. Again and again and again.


Myra Johnson said...

Cara said: "I'm easily distracted by google."

This is a real weakness of mine! I can't resist Googling for info when I need a fact for my story. I can go down all sorts of rabbit trails discovering fascinating tidbits that may or may not have anything to do with my characters or plot.

Cara Lynn James said...

Myra, I don't play computer games, but I can waste hours googling everyone and everything I can think of. On the plus side, I learn tons of interesting and unimportant facts!

Cara Lynn James said...

Susan, I can only write fast if I have a deadline (not self-imposed) or I don't re-read what I write. If only I weren't tempted ...

Cara Lynn James said...

Susan, I can only write fast if I have a deadline (not self-imposed) or I don't re-read what I write. If only I weren't tempted ...

Cara Lynn James said...

Ruthy, what's your trick for writing fast? Lots of energy? I don't have much of that, I'm afraid.

Cara Lynn James said...

Kav, I don't know why they change the cover. Oh, for this one in German they had to change the title. But I wonder too why they couldn't keep the picture. Maybe it's a matter of $. Maybe the German publisher found it cheaper to do their own than buy the rights to the cover. Or does the American publisher have rights to the cover??? I don't know. I'm making this up as I go along.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Cara, you just made me lol at that last part...

Whether you're maing it up or not, you still know more than I do.

Cara Lynn James said...

Danke, Keli! I love to edit, too! It takes me forever because every word is golden, at least in my eyes. But I've learned to cut. The delete key is a writer's friend.

Cara Lynn James said...

Deb, some writers love their characters and their story from beginning to end. I envy them because I usually hate my story by the end of the book. It's a lack of confidence, I guess.

Still, it's scary to turn in a book if you think you need one last rewrite and there isn't time.

Cara Lynn James said...

Melissa, procrastination is one of my faults too. I have so many and they keep popping up. However, with a deadline I have no problem doing what I need to do -- only because I'm scared to death I won't finish in time. Fear is an amazing motivator.

Jill Weatherholt said...

This is a great post, Cara! Aside from editing as I write, I can also do some head hopping. Next week when I begin NaNoWriMo for my second time, I'll definitely be focusing on #1, otherwise I'll never reach the 50K word goal.

Cara Lynn James said...

Jill, you can change the head hopping after you've finished the book. Or maybe you prefer to get it straightened out as soon as you notice it. NaNo should help you stay on track. I'd like to do it, but I'll be gone for several days in November. I'll have to see. Good luck with it!

Pepper said...

Ooo, #1 gets me EVERY time!!!
Thanks for the reminders, Cara!

Melissa Jagears said...

Hmmm, I actually don't mind being snarky, but "resident snarky smart girl" has a nice ring to it. :D

Cara, deadline fear is a wonderful motivator for me, I hate failing to achieve, so I'd HATE missing a deadline, it's just that self-imposed deadlines don't activate the fear of failure hormone.

Cara Lynn James said...

Melissa, deadlines really get me working and worrying. It's hard pressure for me to handle because the stress can also tire me out. But that awful fear of failing is even more powerful.

Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

Such great advice. It's not easy to keep from editing as I go.


Cara Lynn James said...

Pepper, it's amazing how many of us edit as we write. It's really only bad if it slows us down too much and limits our progress. But it also makes me forget my where my story is going. Hence, I need some sort of outline. This isn't an easy process, is it?

Cindy W. said...

Oh my! Thank you for this post Cara. I am so very guilty of Blunder #1 that I have several stories started and I can't get very far because I continually edit as I go. I've been telling myself I need to just write. Good or bad, just write. Then go back and edit. Hopefully I will listen to myself soon. :)

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Hi Cara! Awesome post! All great reminders!
For me, it comes down to write, write, and then write some more, forget the internal editor, and anything else that can slow a writer down.

Cara Lynn James said...

Eva, we need to get rid of whatever keeps us from getting those words down. It's easier for me to edit later because I'm more objective than when I first write something.

Cara Lynn James said...

Cindy, it turns out that almost all of us are guilt of Blunder #1. I wouldn't have guessed it! I thought editing as I go was one of my quirks and everyone else just wrote and wrote and wrote. I'm doing much better than I used to, but it's hard!

Nancy C said...

>>I find a lot more preaching in inspirational novels than in any other type of book. Does any one agree or do you disagree?<<

Oh, Cara, you hit on why I was so turned off inspirational fiction when I first became aware of it. I had the misfortune of picking "hit you over the head with the message" books. I rarely read past the second chapter. I do recall one time when I read to about midway in a book -- then a miracle happened in the book and one of the major problems was conveniently solved :-)

Fortunately, years late I met someone who convinced me inspirational fiction didn't have to be like what I had read. She introduced me to some good stories by terrific writers -- stories where characters lived the message and the writer didn't hit me over the head with it. Thank goodness for her, or I would have missed so many good books.

Great post!

Nancy C

Nancy C said...

"a word from our heavenly sponsor."

Oh, Glynna, I can't tell you how hard I laughed when I read that ... and it's exactly how that type of intrusion in the story feels :-)

Nancy C

Cara Lynn James said...

Nancy, the amount of preachiness definitely varies from book to book. I enjoy the subtle kind myself, but as a writer I think it's hard to get it right.

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

@Virginia LOL I type out so many comments only to realize after I publish that I must look like a complete dunderhead. I need an editor too!!!

Edwina said...

Well, I'm the poster child for all 5 blunders! But I'm learning!

Mary Preston said...

A very interesting post thank you. AS a reader I love to know the why's and wherefores.


authorkathyeberly said...

Excellent points! I find that it's hard not for me to edit as I go but know that I will never get a manuscript done if I do that part first. I would love to win anything!

C.E. Hart said...

I'm guilty of #1. It's so difficult for me to turn off my inner editor as I write. Not because of lack of confidence or feeling unworthy--but because I can be anal. LOL I'm getting better though. ;)

Please add me to the drawing!
nicnac63 AT hotmail DOT com

Thank you for the tips.
Happy Friday!

shelia said...

I'm not a writer but would love to win the gift card!

VisionWriter said...

What a great article, thank you so much. I think I've fallen prey to sevral of those.
Amber Schamel
Larkspur, CO

Lisa Godfrees said...

Amen to not preaching! No one wants to be hit on the head with a Jesus stick while they're reading. The gift is to have it flow naturally in the writing. I just read Melanie Dickerson's The Merchant's Daughter and she introduced a ton of Scripture and theology as a plot devise. It was one of the smartest ways I've seen it done.

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Sarah said...

Enter me!!
Sarah Richmond

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

ooooh Cara,


As much as I already know these things, I need to keep hearing them.

The worst part for me is to start another book because I'm used to the polished, finished product that has just been completed.

I'm getting better, but... Still needed to be smacked with Blunder #1 for sure!

Another printer-offer. :)

Thank you and HAPPY 5th Birthday Seekerville!!!

may at maythek9spy dot com

PatriciaW said...

I can just stop at #1, at least until I get past this one.

Except I don't edit as I write. Not on paper, anyway. In fact, my "editing" is all in my head. I'm thinking about what I've already written rather than where the story is headed. So I start rethinking the opening, the last scene, etc.

This good, blunt advice.

Zanne Davis said...

Hi Cara,
I wander as I write so I often have to stop and say, Silly me, that's not my theme! Then also when I edit, I add and change a bunch of things, which also diverts my theme. But I also like to make up my own words that I believe are real, or substitute incorrect ones for correct ones. Like allusion for illusion, roll for role (really? Yeah!) or use the word vibrance-is that a word? Or sniggered. Yeesh. Daniel Webster is cringing right now! Sometimes I'm just too creative!!!

B. J. Robinson said...

For me POV slips were my big blunder when I began writing and publishing. I also had to learn not to preach since I do write inspirational. I grew up reading so many different styles and genres, but I loved women's fiction, romance, mystery, and suspense. I grew up on Nancy Drew and read every book I could get my hands on. I really enjoyed this post. Blessings, BJ