Just Write

Writing Advice

I’m going through old writing magazines and finding gems, like this one, “Top Five Fiction Mistakes.” — by Moira Allen, The Writer, September 2002.

“Ask most fiction editors how to avoid rejection, and you’ll hear the same thing: Read the guidelines. Review the publication. Don’t send a science fiction story to a literary magazine. Don’t send a 10,000-word manuscript to a magazine that never publishes anything longer than 5,000 words. Spell-check. Proofread. Check your grammar.”

“The one piece of advice nearly every editor had to offer was: Read, read, read. Read widely. Read the authors who have won awards in your genre to find out what has already been done, so that you don’t end up offering old, trite plots without even realizing it.

Then, ‘Write!’ says Max Keele of Fiction Inferno. And keep writing. And write some more.

When you’re finished, ‘’Let the story sit for a few days or a week, ‘says Richard Freeborn of Oceans of the Mind. ‘Come back to it and read it aloud to yourself. I am still surprised at all the inconsistencies and bad transitions I catch when I do that.’

‘Once your story has aged a bit, seek someone else’s opinion. Find an educated reader who can provide valuable feedback . . .’ suggests Twilight Times’ Lida Quillen. ‘Find readers who can mention segments that were unbelievable, let you know where the story left them cold, and sections where they were pulled into the story.’

Finally, make sure you don’t make the ultimate fatal mistake, cited by Tony Venables of Ad Hoc, thinking that people should read what you write simply because you write it. Writers need to understand that they have to earn their audience, to make their audience feel it’s worthwhile to read their work. This does not mean pandering to populist ideas or sugar-coating what you have to say—it means choosing not to be boring.”

Want to know what the “Top Five Fiction Mistakes” are, according to this article? Paraphrased from the article:

  • Bad beginnings. A story needs a beginning that grabs the reader. Be sure that your story begins where it should . . . not too much backstory, but enough so readers know who characters are.
  • Wordiness. Avoid too many adjectives and adverbs. Don’t use big words when simple ones would do just as well.
  • Poor plots. Focus on characters with interesting goals and motivations.
  • Undeveloped characters. Create believable characters that readers care about. Avoid characters who do not grow, avoid stereotypes.
  • No point. Be certain what your story is about. Be sure you have answered the “why” of the story.

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