Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Musings: Learning from your worse mistake

Hey, there, Musers and Friends.

Welcome to September's last Sunday and Fall's first.

This month has flown by, since we've been back musing. Hope it's been a smooth month for you. Little chaotic here, but when isn't it?

Today our Musers are talking about their biggest mistakes and what they learned...let's get musings.

My worst writing mistake came in the Precomputer Stone Age.  I submitted a mss. to a supposed agent who turned out to be a leach.  I'm glad I did not have the kind of money she was seeking, because the mistake would have then been expensive with no results to show for it.  The experience really burned me, and it was several years before I even considered submitting anything again.  I never stopped writing, of course.  In the end, it turned out to my good.  I was able to hone my skills without distracting myself with the business-side of authorship.

Excessive adverbs and speech tags were my bane when I started out. My goodness, they were breeding, taking over every page, squirming like verbal leeches all through my work, sucking all the energy from my babies. I still have to watch carefully (see what I did there? ;-) ) to make sure that my use of adverbs is limited. I try to keep it to three adverbs per 10,000 words, and speech tags (He said, she asked, etc.) only when I can't do without them. And rarely do I use anything except "said." I used to be hooked on the "exclaimed, shouted, averred, swore" approach to speech, until I learned how to make the dialogue speak for itself. I do occasionally use another one, but, as mentioned before, only when there is no simple way to just use "said."

I've noticed that my mechanics are much more energetic and have more impact when I take this approach. I think it makes the work slide through a reader's brain that much easier.

MJ LABEFF, New Mainstream author

My worst writing mistake occurred when I wrote my first novel in 2007. It’s a common one made by new novel writers and that’s using the word- felt. “She felt…” You don’t need it ever. Show how she felt don’t tell. Worse yet is, “She felt his hand gripping her arm.” How about just, “His hand gripped her arm.” See what I mean? Another writing mistake, “She saw the black and blue bruise on his right eye…” How about just, “His right eye was black and blue.” Watch overusing the word- was. Choose great verbs. Anyway, that manuscript has been executed and buried under my bed. What can I say? Write and learn.

 I think for my worst writing mistake I would have to say the very first story I tried to submit to all the New York publishers. It is a middle grade fantasy and I had no idea of what was expected in publishing. I had no idea of how publishing worked, but I used Writer’s Market and I sent my story to a lot of editors. I got back tons of rejections and none of these publishers wanted it. I almost gave up, but I put it away and realized this might not be the story I was meant to publish. I have always thought I would look at it again and probably now I would see all the mistakes I made in my writing.

My worst writing mistake was to underestimate the importance of writing every day. This year, I have ensured I write something daily and I have had more writing success, than ever before. Waiting until inspiration strikes can result in lots of wasted time. I used to be afraid of writing something that I didn't consider good, so, often, I'd just stare at a blank screen or get distracted. Now, I write anything, even though I know it's not satisfactory and then keep working on it until I improve it. It's easier to revise and polish something than to start from scratch.

...about the time I was fourteen-fifteen, I wrote a story about a senior-year high school boy who was poor and lived on a farm, who was then attacked by a vampire and drafted into an undead army--a sort of civil war between two ancient masters. Only, I was newly writing and thought "Hey, let's add approximately 4,000 adjectives in front of every noun!" I don't remember why I thought this was a brilliant idea; to be artsy and sophisticated? To imitate Dickens? Who knows. All I remember is being absolutely horrified re-reading this old manuscript a few years later. It's a good story (in my opinion :P), but wow, I learned that short and sweet can be better than waxing poetic. I'm not saying that I don't pen a meandering description now and again, but only if the story calls for it. If you add too many adjectives (because really, does your reader need to know that the protagonist's hair is "a lustrous sheen of auburn, resembling more so than anything the coat of a young red bay standing in a mid-autumn sunset"? Or that her legs were "long, languidly placed, white, and gently freckled like a paintbrush had gone astray" every time you mention this person?) might lose your reader in the mire.

              Old sentence (circa 2009): His long, toned legs danced waveringly around the white, solid-looking table as he reached for the old, barely-used telephone hanging from the wall.

               New sentence (circa 2016): His long legs danced around the table as he reached for the old phone hanging from the wall. 

Use these lengthy gatherings of adjectives once in a while, but not for everything.

My worst writing mistake…well, which to choose…? One was when I tried to put across a north of England accent by phonetical spelling of certain words to denote the different vowel sounds. This led to a complaint about mis-spellings from one reader and another pointing out I was using a word that had a completely different (rude) meaning in their vernacular. Okay…so I stopped using phonetics and put the accent across in a different way!

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

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