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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Author Insight: Writerly Faults

What do you feel is your biggest writerly fault,
and how do you deal with it?

"I think my biggest fault is rushing through my work because I desperately want to write that cherished climactic scene. I have to make myself slow down and give the details, think harder about the worldbuilding, etc." - Tiffany Trent, author of the Hallowmere series.

"My biggest writerly fault is having too many ideas and not enough time (and a messy desk--such a messy desk). Anyhow...I'm constantly jotting down ideas and filing them away for later." - Shannon Delany, author of 13 to Life: A Werewolf's Tale.

"My writing can be passive. I have a great critique partner to help point that out for me. Also, I'm fairly plot-challenged. I think having the right critique partner to balance out your weaknesses is key." - Denise Jaden, author of Losing Faith.

"Plot. There, I said it. I love words so much that I could write internal, meandering "pretty" moments all day, and never get out of the character's head and into the action. My editor has been kind enough to hit me with a stick when that happens. I'm getting better." - Victoria Schwab, author of The Near Witch.

"I’m most comfortable with internal dialogue…least comfortable with spoken dialogue (in writing, as in life?). So I have discovered a secret dialogue weapon…I call my best friend, Amy! She writes for the stage and is awesome at dialogue, plus we’ve known each other since high school (she knows the secrets, and she’s not telling). There was this one scene in Tell Me a Secret, the last one I had to revise before selling the novel – a confrontation between two characters, and I had no idea how it would go down. So I called Amy, and we talked the whole thing out. I mentioned a random factoid about one character, and she said, “Why did that happen?” At first I blew it off, but then I realized…the Why was the key to the scene and that whole character. So I highly recommend finding your own Amy when a writing problem has you stuck in the mire!" - Holly Cupala, author of Tell Me a Secret.

"Wanting to stay in my character’s head too much. This is okay on early drafts and maybe even important. But most teens want more action. Dealing with it requires brutal editing." - Amy Brecount White, author of Forget-Her-Nots.

"I don't like to revise. I love the draft, and Margie and I draft very quickly. We just have to get the story out--it's the way we write. But we have to force ourselves to revise, which generally means we have to make deadlines for ourselves & drink lots of Diet Coke." - Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures.

"Procrastinating is certainly my biggest flaw. I have to remind myself that this is what I really want to do with my life but in order to accomplish it, I have to get a move on it." - Alexandra Diaz, author of Of All the Stupid Things.

"Is getting cranky when I’m too busy to write a fault? If so, that’s the one!" - Kimberly Derting, author of The Body Finder.

"You mean besides checking my email too much? ;) A fault I have right now that's a problem and threatens to drive me insane is second guessing myself too much. I'll write a scene, and then I immediately want to look over it, to see if it's good. And sometimes I can't tell. Or I think it is good, but then five minutes later I'm convinced that it's horrible and have to reread it again, and this time I'm really not so sure... So I pull it out of the file and into my deleted scenes file, because I can't stand knowing this awful scene is supposedly part of the book. Then I start planning a new angle on the scene, or try to rewrite it, or whatever. Whatever crazy thing I think will somehow make up for what a horrible, disappointing scene I've just written. Then, the next day, I read over the rewrite. And... it's okay. It's really not great, though. Then I start to think about the scene I threw out. I want to compare them, to know that the newer scene is at least an improvement over the old crappy one. And nine times out of ten... my first take on the scene is fine. It's hilarious. It does all the things I wanted it to do, and maybe more. Or it wasn't what I originally had in mind, but it's better. Different, but better. And all that could have been avoided if I just calmed the hell down and didn't try and second guess myself as soon as I finished it. With the novel I just finished, I had this problem with the whole first three chapters. I rewrote them several times, trying a different voice, a different tense, creating meaningless subplots to throw in. You name it. And I'd already sent my original first three chapter to my agent, who I hoped would forgive me and realize they were just a sample of the book and not necessarily what it would really be like. Well, after three weeks of rewriting over and over like a crazy lady, my agent got back to me. She really enjoyed the first three chapters. I was like, "She did? Really?!?!" So I reread them. And... I loved them. So I put them back in, and that solved a lot of my problems with that book, and hopefully I've learned something from it." - Chelsea Campbell, author of The Rise of Renegade X.

"If you ask my editor, it’s the em-dash. I like them too much. =) I deal with it by begrudgingly deleting the ones she tells me to. If you ask my agent, she’d say giving her tendonitis from waving her hand in front of her face to cool down. (She thinks my books are “steamy.”ßHer word, not mine.) Nothing I can do about that. I like steamy romance. If you ask me, I think I probably could organize better. Again, I’m not patient enough to sit down and outline when a story idea hits. I just want to write. And I never write anything in order. I write the scene that’s screaming to be written. But, because I that, I’ll have whole characters that don’t occur to me until the book is “done” that I go back and add in. So far it’s worked, but…" - Lisa Desrochers, author of Personal Demons.

"A tragic lack of solid discipline in writing regularly." - Rhonda Hayter, author of The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams.

"I tend to hit on certain favorite words or phrases and overuse them a lot. I have a document with those words and phrases listed, and I search through my manuscripts and try to replace as many as I can." - Leah Cypess, author of Mistwood.

"Well, I have a few to pick from, but I'll go with the cardinal sin of not revealing enough information. I always have to go back and flesh out character backgrounds and world details, because I have this tendency to just assume that one brief mention in passing is enough to justify an entire plot-thread." - Brenna Yovanoff, author of The Replacement.

"I take too long to write and tend to hand-wring while I'm doing it. I haven't found a solution yet, but I wish I were far more efficient. I suspect my editor does, too. :-)" - Swati Avashti, author of Split.

"I think I have several (at least!). Plotting is tremendously hard for me—I could easily bang out a thousand pages without ever arriving at a plot, so I’ve learned to really take a step back at the beginning of the process and think, and outline, and plan. The second major flaw I have is a tendency to overwrite. I restate metaphors, I use three words when I could use one, etc. That is why I listen, listen, listen (see? Three words!) to my amazing editor, Rosemary Brosnan. I trust her, and allow her to get in there and prune, and only in the rarest cases do I ever resist her changes." - Lauren Oliver, author of Before I Fall.

Come back Thursday to see what the rest of the authors struggle with as they write!


  1. Awesome post! It's really interesting to see what all of the authors had to say--I can relate to so many of those!

  2. Some really interesting answers there.