Hi folks. I'm finally home after vacation, my dad's surgery, and Dragoncon. I taught my two workshops there, and attended several panels in the Writer's Track.
A couple of common mistakes caught my attention, either from Q&A in the Writing Track, or during the workshops. Here are some of the common problems writers seemed to have that you might not hear about every day:
1. Too much worldbuilding: this usually happens to writers of science fiction and fantasy, I fear. They get so involved with creating a world, cultures, geography, social structures, art, legends and lore, etc., etc., that somehow they forget to include a PLOT in their story.
Your reader doesn't need page upon page of world-building setting and description. He/she only needs enough to be able to visualize what's happening, care about the characters, and follow the storyline.
I realize there's a huge temptation among writers to put on the page everything they spend so much time creating, but try to resist.
(This problem can also happen to writers who write "period" fiction Instead of creating the world themselves, they research the period so intensively that the reader can get mired in all the details, while the plot is absent or moving at a glacial pace.)
2. Having characters declaim instead of speak. This especially applies to villains. If you can read the dialogue aloud and "hear" mustache twirling from the villain, it's time to rewrite. Reading aloud is always a good way to check how your characters "sound" to the reader.
3. Writing a book in first person because the protagonist is basically YOU. This happens a lot to first-time writers, and it's rarely a good thing. When you make yourself the protagonist in a story, it's hard to remain objective about your story. And being too subjective about what's happening in your story may blind you to faults such as slow pacing, lack of narrative hooks, unbelievable character motivation, over the top dialogue, etc.
4. Biting off more than you're ready to chew. I wish I had a buck for every aspiring writer whose first project is an epic fantasy trilogy -- or even a series. I'm not saying you CAN'T write a trilogy if that's what is burning in your heart and soul to write, but be aware of the fact that trilogies require a lot of subplots and characters, and the pacing can be very tricky. The first book you submit should be more or less self-contained, rather than a cliffhanger. So if you're writing a trilogy, keep this in mind and end the book in a satisfactory manner so it can be submitted as a first novel, okay?
Also...writers can get so immured in a world they've created that they keep on writing book after book without ever submitting any of them. They think for some reason they have to have the entire 7 book series complete before they can submit anything. This thinking is flawed. No publishing house is going to buy a 7 book series from a brand-new writer. What they'll want to do is buy one, or possibly two books, then publish them and see how they sell.
So...don't put off submitting your completed and polished book while you write the next four, eh?
Hope this has been helpful.
-Ann C. Crispin