Monday, April 26, 2010

Writing Mechanics Monday

This is what my WiP feels like to me right now.

I am in the revision stage of my current novel.
I have this story and characters I love, but after ripping out a couple chapters (and still needing to do that pesky research) and moving things around...well, I have my work cut out for me.

It's my job during the revision process to pull it all together. Seamlessly.
(right now there are lots of messy seams and ragged holes)

Because we NEVER want to pull a reader out of the story with bad mechanics. 
Haven't we all been a couple chapters in and thrown a book across the room, because the errors were so annoying?

Here are just a few common mechanical errors you (I) do not want to make:

 Clunky or buried dialogue
Or worse, not being able to figure out which character is speaking
Every character has the same speech pattern
Unrealistic dialogue: people RARELY speak in monologues
Characters suddenly doing something out of character for no reason
Slow pacing: info dumps, lengthy exposition/description/flashbacks, nothing HAPPENING
Telling instead of Showing
Saggy Middles
Ending that ruin an otherwise great book
Clunky, confusing sentence structure. 
Gaping plot holes
Continuity mistakes--for example,  the truck was described as teal and suddenly it is described as black

The list could go on and on.
I need to get back to fixing my messy wip.

Which mechanical errors bother you most as a reader?



Wendy Ramer said...

I get annoyed by the seemingly little things that are really so basic, like "your" when the word should be "you're". Or "There is so many things to do today." instead of "There are...". Ugh!

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I get annoyed with big long info dumps. We are constantly told to avoid them, yet they keep appearing in every book I read!

Pat Tillett said...

I get annoyed when I do it. I'm more forgiving with others...

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Ooh, I'm annoyed when I have to reread a sentence several times because the structure is awkward.

And I'm with Jess, info dumps are horrible to get through.

Best of luck with revisions!

DL Hammons said...

I get upset when I can't find my glasses!! Oh....probably not what you were looking for. Hmmmm...okay...logic bombs. That point in a novel where the MC does something that makes absolutely no logical sense. ARGH!!

India Drummond said...

The trick isn't so much not committing these errors, but being able to spot these errors in our own writing. That's the hard part!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Unrealistic dialogue and complete out-of-character behaviors. But number one would have to be excessive descriptions that go on for pages...

Mia said...

Confusing description of action sequences. I get very frustrated when I have to re-read a paragraph several times just so I know who and what is happening.

I'm sure I do all of these things though :S

Anonymous said...

Info dumps are definitely on the top of my list (especially when they're done in huge, chunky paragraphs) of things that bug me as a reader. Because of this, sometimes, I feel like I go too far in the other direction in not giving enough info. :)

Good luck with revisions!

Stephanie Thornton said...

I love that picture because it's how I feel with Book #2. And I'm still writing the thing!

I just have to remember that it takes a gazillion revisions to take a book to the final draft. And even then I'm sure I'll find things I wish I could change.

Anonymous said...

Inconsistencies and typos. I know everyone makes typos but seriously.... And recently inconsistencies have been ragging on me. I'm finding them EVERYWHERE.

But I learn from others' mistakes so maybe I can publish the mechanically perfect book. (Yeah, right. I see that happening.)

Anonymous said...

The thing that bothers me in revision is when I realize I use the same technique over & over & over. Usually it works the first time & then just seems lame afterward. I'm really guilty of this when I write a lot at once. If I spread my writing over time, I find much more variety in my novel.

Summer said...

I hate it when an author figures out a few good things voice-wise, and then proceeds to use the living hell out of them so that whenever you run across them, it makes you want to rip your eyeballs out...true? (know who I'm talking about?) Maybe this will help:
feel me?
time to FOOD UP
*insert random, unexplained acronym here*

This voice works fine for a few characters, but I DO NOT believe that an aristocratic woman is going to have the same thought process as a 400 year old warrior! Gah, drives me nuts.

Falen said...

ugh. i'm in the same boat. I have to work on zazzing up my main character.

Talli Roland said...

What really annoys me is when things get tied up in an unrealistic way. For example: the MC is in a struggle and all of a sudden remembers she has a knife from lunch in her sock. ANNOYING!

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

I was thinking the same thing! Now I don't have to post about it on my blog! =) jk. There are so many things that I can find fault with in my own writing. I wouldn't begin to criticize others because I make or have made the same mistakes. EX. POV changes, backstory dump (again), cliche's, out of place pros, not a good balance between internal and external battles, etc.

Yes, the list could go on and on and on and on...

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

It annoys me when there has been a slow build up and then the ending is rushed. I prefer to feel satisfied rather than it come to an abrupt end because the author realises their word count is too long or runs out of steam.

Patti said...

There's so much to remember when editing, no wonder it takes so long.

Cynthia Reese said...

It annoys me when a writer steps back from conflict that could be deeper and takes the "safe" way out.

It annoys me when characters do dumb things or paint themselves into a corner. I'm thinking of a very big best-seller who did this, and as I listened to the audio book in my car, I literally screamed out, "You stupid, stupid IDIOT!" (to the character, not the author.)

Best of luck with your revisions -- loved your visual, because it really reflects the process!

Crystal Cook said...

I hate it when character's make the same idiotic mistakes over and over again. They never learn from their bad choices! Isn't that what they're supposed to do? Grow and change?

Good luck with the revisions btw :)

B. Miller said...

Maybe it's because I'm a grammar Nazi, but grammatical errors frickin kill me. Especially commas. COMMAS ARE NOT A WRITING CONDIMENT, PEOPLE. You can't just shake a handful into your prose and call it good.

I'm dreading revision but not really allowing myself to think about it right now as the first draft still has yet to be completed. But I can honestly say it's now a matter of weeks instead of months before it's done! :D

Good luck with your revisions!

Portia said...

First off, I think the picture above is lovely, even scrambled :-)

I'd have to agree. Unrealistic dialogue and cliches are at the top of my list as well. I also hate run on sentences and overuse of semi-colons.

Lostcheerio said...

Saggy middles -- always a problem! Heh. :) But I'd have to say that scenes without tangible conflict are my least favorite to read.

Old Kitty said...


It doesn't bother me so much - more like it bothers me because I notice them whereas before I never used to..

POV shifts.

Even my lovely and sublime Terry Pratchett does it! LOL!


Your wolves are howling for you!!!!!!

Take care

Laura Marcella said...

I get annoyed when I don't know which character is speaking! I like my reading to be seamless, and re-reading passages to figure out what's going doesn't say anything good about the writer.

Now of course I better be extra careful in my own writing or else I'll be a big hypocrite, haha.

KarenG said...

That is a very thorough list. Bad bad writer to do those things. I'm with Old Kitty. I do NOT like POV shifts. I like to stay with one person when I read and get attached to that person and feel like I'm inside their skin. Although I will tolerate sensible, well-organized, moderate POV shifts I do not like them all over the place. Ugh.

Lydia Kang said...

Great list. I'm dealing with that list right now. Especially the saggy middle.

Shannon said...

Great list, thanks for the reminder. And good luck with your WIP. :)

Unrealistic dialogue is my pet peeve.

Kazzy said...

I always struggle with dialogue the most. For some reason I do it in real life great, but writing it is a struggle.

Jeff King said...

I don't worry about such things until I finish a first draft... I ride the joy as far and as fast as possible. Once I stop to judge what I have done or how well I did it, then the story becomes overwhelming. If I wait until I finish, then rewriting certain part become easier, because I have the whole manuscript to push me forward.

Best of luck

Palindrome said...

Eh, my first drafts are horrible and riddled with adverbs!

Alexandra Shostak said...

The untagged dialogue thing always bothers me--when I have to go back through and count the lines so I can figure out who says what, I usually give up. That's also made worse by the speech patterns thing, though it would be easily fixable by a couple nice little dialogue tags. Unrealistic dialogue also gets me--so do unrealistic actions, or uncohesive characters.

And then of course, there's not keeping the voice consistent. Nothing is worse than getting a high fantasy or historical type voice, and then having a slang or really familiar sentence thrown in.

Hahaha. I'm in the revision stages right now, too, and that picture you've got up there is SO accurate. I feel that way too.

laurel said...

As a reader I dislike jumping conflict (characters practically punching with no build up) and characters who don't grow or change but seem to be on a cycle instead of an arc. And rushed endings in which all the subplots are left hanging. Those make me nuts.

In my own writing, I don't have enough scene variety and tend to slavishly dramatize everything. Narrative summary is a way of showing in a condensed manner--a scene type I'm trying to master.

Jemi Fraser said...

Really bad pov switching drives me nuts - but my ultimate pet peeve is tense switching. :)

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

I loathe lengthy description. Even when it is done by the masters, I start skimming.

And as for saggy middles...I feel like I am writing one right now! Aaagggh!

Lola Sharp said...

Oh YEAH...Summer reminded me of another of my biggest pet peeve (common in thrillers), unexplained acronyms!! HATE THAT!

I agree with everyone's pet peeves.

I notice these issues even from multi-published best selling authors.
I know many of them are contracted for a book/year (or more!), and that kind of schedule would lead to sloppiness. But why the editor isn't catching the glaring errors prior to it hitting the printing press is beyond me.

Elliot Grace said...

...Steve Alten, writer of the "Meg" series, once said, "You can literally edit a manuscript without pause for eternity if you're not careful."

Geez Lola, you mentioned having a saggy middle. I've been editing so much over the past month,(ass in chair/eyes crossed while reading,) I threw a glance at the mirror while stepping outta the shower tonight and...yeah. Too much edit, not enough treadmill:)

Terresa said...

Just came back from a writing conference yesterday and my head is full to bursting with the glory of it all.

As I heard from more than one presenter: If you break the rules, know why and do it well enough to get away with it. ;)


mo.stoneskin said...

I hate all of those things and can't imagine what it is like to be editing one's book, exhausting no doubt. My pet hates include all of the above, but I really hate it when you get the feeling that the last chapter or two is rushed, that the writer just wanted to finish.

Aubrie said...

"Every Character has the same speech pattern" I'm so guilty of that!

Good luck with your revision. The picture will come into focus!

Clara said...

Omg, I get you 100%!!!
Characters suddenly doing something out of character for no reason.
Slow pacing: info dumps, lengthy narrative/exposition/description
Telling instead of Showing.

Exactly what I´m going through right now. This is so hard sometimes, because we write books for us, the writer, and instead we have to write books for the reader. And that´s a lot of adaptin to make the story interesting...oh boy *sigh*

Tara said...

Nothing bothered me before I began writing seriously. Now, when I read, all I can see is the places where "rules" aren't followed. I hate rules. I just wanna be sucked in to a good story and forget they exist.

But, since you asked, clunky dialogue is probably the one thing I've always noticed.

Christina Lee said...

We had just this conversation at my critique group last night. We named info dumps and confusing sentences that made you think instead of read!

Watery Tart said...

I can SEE there are gorgeous PARTS in there! You'll get there! I find that at the stage it sounds like you're at, it isn't so hard... take out... put in... but that those editing scars require at least two or three surgeries to vanquish afterwards... I try to keep a notebook of all those things that will affect continuity, but I inevitably miss some--take advantage of your critique group because fresh eyes can do wonders.

Girl with One Eye said...

My favorite to abuse "Clunky, confusing sentence structure." I know what I want to say but it comes out like a broken up cell phone call.

Lola Sharp said...

I see some of you think this post meant I am guilty of writing these mistakes! (well, yeah, plot holes in my first draft, duh! And wordiness, too. I always have to do a lot of narrative pruning during revisions) But overall, NO, I don't commit most of these fatal flaws in my writing.

I just HATE reading them in published books. Drives me batty.

Theresa Milstein said...

Your picture is a perfect illustration of what happens to many manuscripts. I've told instead of shown. I've noticed plenty of the other errors in some manuscripts and even a few published books. Good luck eradicating those errors as you continue to work on your WIP.

Ann Best said...

Unrealistic dialogue is a turn off for me. Just have characters talk the way they would in ordinary conversation. Mechanics that bother me: too many or misplaced commas; and misspellings, such as it's for its. Anything that interrupts the flow of the story.

Joanne Brothwell said...

The thing that bugs me about re-writing my own ms is when I cut something or someone out and there are little traces of that situation/person left behind that I don't notice. Agh!

Thank goodness for Betas!

Jen said...

Great picture! I understand the feeling exactly!!! I must say that right now I'm probably commiting several of those sins if not all of them. I wrote without thinking about anything else but me, there are no paragraphs, dialogue tags... nothing. Realizing all of this means that I have more work ahead of me... right now I have a floaty but holding on is getting harder, I feel soon it could result in drowning.

We'll see!

Tracy said...

Scenery. I get so annoyed with anything more than two sentences to describe any piece of scenery or setting. I don't need to know that the seat cushions were purple velvet, unless it's actually important to the story!

Saumya said...

WOW; your post sums up what took me months to learn. I think I agree with Tracy above. Too much description irritates me and so does a supporting character whose relationship to the main character doesn't make sense.

I'm so excited to be your 200th follower!! Congrats!

Lola Sharp said...

Whoa! I did indeed just hit 200 followers! That is exciting! :o)

Thanks Saumya!! Welcome aboard!

Holly said...

great things to remind us.

mi said...

very cohesive list!

VR Barkowski said...

Love the picture. Even scrambled the colors sing.

I think what bothers me most is poor grammar. Not misspellings but the inability to structure a sentence. Writing is an art, but every art has a mechanical aspect (look at the early paintings of Picasso or the glass of Dale Chihuly). Learn the rules first, then you can break them.

Oh, and I have something for you over on my blog. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh I can't wait to read this Lola!

Creepy Query Girl said...

Hmn. Good post. Hard question. I think the thing that turns me off is when nothing is 'happening'. It's a lot of sitting around, having pointless conversations that don't really move the plot along.

Wendy aka Quillfeather. said...

I'm sure I've made every mistake in the book. But hey, practice makes perfect, right?

Great blog you've got here!

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. Lovely to see you there :)

Carol Kilgore said...

Love the mosaic. Maybe we have the same WIP. I'm on second draft. Thanks for commenting on my blog.

Cheeseboy said...

I'm going to say all of the above, but pray I am not an abuser.

T.J. Carson said...

Ha there is this scene in the movie Twister where the red truck has it's window down and Melissa is driving then she swerves because Jo's yellow one falls from the sky and then magically the red truck's window is up! WTF?!?! haha YES i'm a HUGE Twister fan!

And thanks for stopping by my blog :) I'm glad you like the header I was thinking of changing it but idk.

And loved Copacabana!!! Not to mention The Hangover is BEAST!

Shelley Sly said...

Wowwee! What a post! I am in NO way the most mechanically perfect writer, nor will I ever be, but I agree with these pet peeves. Info dumps, characters sounding the same, and forced/unnatural dialogue and actions are high on my list.

Best of luck with your revisions, darlin!

Jenn said...

I strongly dislike having to re-read lines of dialogue because I can't tell who's speaking.

In addition, I seem to be seeing a disturbing trend in the misuse of the semi-colon. This is not okay! :)

Missed Periods said...

I am reading a novel right now that I have to read because a friend gave it to me and he loved it and I don't have the heart, but it constantly tells instead of shows and the dialogue is killing me. How do these books get published?

Anonymous said...

Lola, loved that picture...very much sums up my image of my novel as well. Still, it's an exciting challenge to get it right (but, sometimes it sucks too). Not a lot annoys me as a reader. I can tell if I'll like something almost straight away, otherwise I don't bother. One thing, perhaps, is when a story goes in a direction I do not think makes sense with the character. Still, it doesn't annoy me, I just put it down and forget about it.

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Lola Sharp
My name is Lola. (I'm not a showgirl) Yes, L-O-L-A Lola. It's the least of my worries. Let's move on, shall we? This blog is mostly about my misadventures on the journey to publication and beyond. My passion for lush prose, quirky characters, art, music, literature, performing arts and anything creative will be a major theme here. This journey of mine will not always be pretty. Much like rubbernecking a train wreck, I know sometimes you just can't help but look at the carnage that is often my life. So strap on your neck brace, helmet and 5-point harness and come along for the ride! Licentia poetica.
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