Weak Writing

One of my weak points in writing is putting the sequel before the scene, or the reaction before the action.  A very basic example of this is having the person jump, startled, and then door slams open.  Rather than having the door slam open and then the person jump.  I think the reason for this is that subconsciously I feel I am startling the reader as well as the character, by not clueing the reader into what is happening.  In other words, if I have the character react first, I somehow think that is going to make the action have more impact.

Of course it doesn’t work that way.  Instead it is like those sudden moments when you are left thinking, ‘hey, what just happened?  what did I miss?’.  I certainly don’t want to leave a reader feeling like they’ve missed something.  So why do I consistently write this mistake into my stories, and then spend an inordinate amount of time editing them back out?

In my mind, the action has already happened, and I’m more interested in how the character is going to react, and what’s going to happen next.  My fingers can’t write as fast as my brain sees the action scene and so I skip ahead.  Well, that sounds good, but in reality I don’t even think about it.  I write blithely away, and then wait for my friend, fellow writer and editor, Susan, to point out the areas in her very gentle way.  She usually prefaces this with a compliment to make it hurt less.  But still, compliments aside, I cringe because I’m repeating the same mistake.

Will I learn?  Probably not while I’m in the midst of writing.  But hopefully my eye will be trained to start catching it before I send it off for a kind friend to find kind ways to say I did it again.  Meanwhile I’m going to return to that manuscript and do some editing.

What are your weak points in writing that you struggle with?  Why do you think you make those mistakes, and how do you plan to change?  And finally, are those mistakes truly mistakes or are they bending the rules to create a fresh new voice, add a unique twist, enhance your story, or build your character?  Sometimes breaking the rules benefits the story.  But I suppose that’s a subject for another day.

5 thoughts on “Weak Writing

  1. I do this too, Lisa! I call it ‘writing backwards.’ Lately, I’ve been catching it more on my first read through, though it still gets onto the page. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve noticed that I can simply reverse two sentences, or even two paragraphs to fix it! I like how you make it sound less weird than I thought it was! Thank you for that. 🙂

    I agree that the hardest time to learn is when I’m in the middle of the writing, but for things I’m more sure about, I’ve learned to do much more of my editing as I go along, day to day. I actually prefer it that way, but it makes me sick of the stories faster because I read them so much. That may be why I can’t quite imagine writing a novel yet, even though I have an idea for one.

    Lately I’m struggling with figuring out the difference between real mistakes, and the character of my writing voice. I like the idea of breaking some of the “rules” but I want it to be a conscious effort that doesn’t sacrifice the best kind of clarity for pointless ambiguity.

    I value this talk about the writing. Thanks for bringing us together with posts like this, to do just that. 🙂

    • I totally second you, Ré, on this: “Lately I’m struggling with figuring out the difference between real mistakes, and the character of my writing voice. I like the idea of breaking some of the ‘rules’ but I want it to be a conscious effort that doesn’t sacrifice the best kind of clarity for pointless ambiguity.” Yes yes and yes! I hear you! I’m glad for you and Lisa and other writing friends to steer me on this path. 🙂

  2. Something that has helped me with this is writing for comics, when every little action and piece of dialogue has to be mapped out quite precisely. I would guess it’s similar to writing for theater: you have to start thinking in three dimensions instead of just in your head. Not that I always succeed, but it’s been helpful for me to try!

    I don’t think I’ve gotten enough feedback on my work to have a strong sense of where my weaknesses are. I guess that’s my weakness. 🙂 Got to generate more work!

  3. What a great idea. I should try taking some scenes from my current work and rewriting them as a play. Just to learn how to bring in that 3-dimensional quality you’re talking about. It seems like writing something that’s simply dialog and visual action would be more one-dimensional, but I never thought about having to map it out and I can sense what you’re talking about. Sounds like a fun writing exercise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s