Every writer has their own personal set of pet peeves. I’m no different in that regard. However, I also am guilty of a few of them. I’m trying to prevent myself from including them in my writing but they always seem to find their way in. My not liking them doesn’t make them inherently wrong. If you like them in your writing, feel free to include them as much as you like. But if you also don’t like them, I’m going to be sharing some of the ways I deal with them so keep reading!
1. Expecting the reader to understand the story the way I do
You know how when books are adapted into movies, there are always some parts that they cut out? Usually this isn’t an issue, but every now and then there are movies that seem to expect you to have already read the book. That happens to my stories too. Except, I have neither a readily-available source material nor wiki pages to explain my story. It seems to me that my writing assumes that the reader can read my mind. When I get someone else to read it, the response is more often than not, “I only understood what you meant by that when I thought really hard about it.” I mean, criticism or not, that sounds like a tiring way to deal with an entire chunk of text.
You’ve probably already guessed what my solution to this would be: engage beta readers. When I think that certain parts of my writing sound a bit sketchy, I send them to my friends and ask them what they think I meant by the text. Unfortunately, I don’t know the process of engaging beta readers that are not your friends, but here’s a list of videos and blogs that I found helpful:
- The Ultimate Guide to Beta Readers
- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Beta Readers
- A Quick Guide to Beta Reader Etiquette
- Writing Feedback: The Ultimate Guide to Working with Beta Readers
Repetition is a common literary device used in poetry. It appears in all of my poems on this website. When I started writing free verse poetry, the device that stood out the most to me, and seemed to be the easiest to use, was repetition. Now, repetition done well can be a very powerful technique. Done poorly, it can come off as lazy and irritating. My poetry, in my opinion, tends to fall into the latter category.
How do I deal with this problem? Honestly, I mostly don’t fight it. It seems that all of my poems seem to have repetition to a certain degree, and for the most part I’m okay with that. It does grate on me, but I’ve written worse. However, I don’t want to rest on my laurels. If I somehow make a name for myself through my poems, I don’t want to only be associated with repetition as only trick up my sleeve. I’ve tried to branch out and use different literary devices, but all that has resulted in so far is a mess of words. I guess there really isn’t much I can do about it aside from working at it and trying really hard to improve.
3. Too much narrative downtime
I don’t know what the correct term for this is, so I’m just going with “narrative downtime”. What I’m referring to are the sections of stories where nothing much happens and your characters can catch their breath. I think these moments are very important. When I watch or read something with too little narrative downtime, I tend to get overwhelm. A movie that I watched recently (that shall go unnamed) was so action-packed that I almost fell asleep halfway through it because I was so tired from the sensory overload. On the other hand, I am very guilty of including too much of this. Once the characters sit down to discuss something or are waiting for something to happen, I get tempted to throw in banter and bits of my terrible sense of humour. Include a minimum of three snarky remarks, and you have a typical first draft dialogue from yours truly.
From my experience, these moments are generally not as important to the plot as their action-packed counterparts. However, they are a good opportunity to showcase the personalities of your characters and really endear them to the reader. Ideally, you don’t want all of your characters to just be known as talkative. It’s fine if it comes up in the first few drafts. Either increase the length of everything else, or cut the unnecessary dialogue.
4. Having a voice that is too distinct
This isn’t a problem inherently, except when it is. All of my point-of-views tend to sound the same. Maybe I’m just being hyper critical of myself, but I really really really think that this is a problem for me. I don’t just mean that my first-person POVs reads alike. I mean that everything from first-person to third-person omniscient reads almost identical. I try to create characters with different personalities, but the minute they start speaking or thinking, they all sound the same. It doesn’t matter whether the story is set in the future, the present or in the near past. It makes me feel like I’m essentially recreating the same characters. That’s not what I want.
Well, the only thing that has worked for me is to stop writing in first-person. It doesn’t seem as bad to me if third-person narrators sound similar. At least, not as bad is first-person narrators sounding similar. Obviously, this isn’t the best solution to this problem. It works for me, but I really shouldn’t restrict my creativity. I already don’t have much of it to spread out. If you feel that the story is better told in first-person, do it. I’m not going to knock on your door and demand you to change it. This is just how I deal with it. I’m trying to find better ways, but if you have any advice please leave a comment.
I have four more of these to talk about, but I’m going to leave it at that for now. Part 2 will be up next Thursday at 19:30 (GMT +8:00).