I had a break in appointments at the WD editors intensive (which I’ve posted about a couple of times). It’s been a nice event. Yesterday I sat on a panel with some fellow editors and addressed writers about the topic of “Why I Stop Reading,” essential giving writers a list of “don’ts” (and a few dos) to think about when they approach their work.
Here’s a list of some of the things most editors agreed upon:
- Be careful of inserting too much exposition into dialogue–this makes the dialogue seem unnatural and can jar the reader out of the story
- Be very selective about the details you reveal as backstory for your characters–only give the readers what’s necessary or you run the risk of overwhelming them or boring them
- Never begin your story with a flashback or dream sequence
- Introduce your protagonist early on (don’t wait until several chapters into the book)–some writers tend to want to start out with the villain or a victim, but make sure we get to know the protagonist soon; don’t wait too long
- Make sure your characters are likable (even if they are villains they should have some traits that at least make them seem like real people–everyone has redeeming qualities)
Lots of questions on craft were discussed. These are just a few of the conversations that ran on for a while.
Today I’ve met with 5 writers and have one more appointment. Everyone has been really nice and I’ve read some nice ideas for stories. It’s interesting see all the different strengths and weaknesses that different writers may have. It really makes me think about how invaluable having a writer’s group can be as someone in your group may be good at one technique (such as dialogue) while someone else may be good at another (setting for example). Having multiple eyes take a look at your work is a big help, even if you get conflicting advice that you end up having to sort through later.
Keep in mind that you’ve been living with your story for a while now. A fresh set of eyes can always help you find some perspective.