Inspired by The Seven Deadly Sins of Blogging – an intuitive article by Sonia Simone, Senior Editor of the Copyblogger – I’ve decided to come up with the 7 Sins of Fiction Writing
Ok, so let’s start with the sin, which I for one am most guilty of. Impatience. Finishing a book, getting represented, getting published and getting recognised are all lengthy sections of an overall extremely slow process. I know it’s hard, when you’ve invested so much, both emotionally and temporally, into a manuscript, to not feel like the relevant cogs are turning to move that story forward, but sit tight. Believe in yourself, believe in your writing, believe in your agent. Whatever stage in the process you’re at … wait it out!
2. Self- Focus
Fiction writing requires fiction. There’s no point writing a personal memoir, and simply changing the names of your characters. If you want to write a memoir, then go ahead and write one. Fiction is about exploring your imagination, and personally I find, the more I push the boundaries of that imagination, the better the results. Like I’ve mentioned before, everything needs some grounding in experience so that you can write knowledgeably on a subject, however the best fiction comes from using that knowledge to expand your imagination.
Writer’s Block is too easy an excuse. Don’t be lazy – if you really want to be taken seriously as a writer, then take yourself seriously. Writing needs to become a second (unpaid) job, so devote the hours to it, and you’ll reap the rewards. And hours ‘on the clock’ aren’t just writing hours. They might include blogging, or reading similar works, and editing or doing more administrative tasks related to your writing, like numbering pages. Commit 100% to your craft.
Now this is mainly the ‘sin’ of unsigned writers, however it still resonates with long-successful authors, as evidenced by the quote by Margaret Atwood that I referenced in The Ten Rules of Fiction Writing. ‘Essentially you’re on your own. Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.’
Linford Christie’s career may not have ended how he hoped, but the Olympic Gold medallist had it right when he said success comes from a Positive Mental Attitude. Negativity doesn’t get you anywhere in any field, especially an art as lonely and subjective as writing.
5. Lack of Imagination
This ties in with Sin number 2 – Self Focus – but also applies to general themes and settings. I’ve discussed how reading widely in your target genre can help widen your imagination, and get you into the right frame of mind to write … however that doesn’t mean you ought to plagiarise! There’s a big wide world out there, with countless stories to be told … why try to retell someone else’s story? Take a look down the young adult fantasy aisle in the bookshop … does the world really need another vampire love story?!
6. Lack of Conviction
This sin can be seen to follow on from negativity, and sloth, but it’s more than just believing in your ability, and capitalising on it … It’s also a question of believing in your subject matter. Write about something you know and love … (but don’t fall to Self-Focus!). 300 pages later, you’re gonna need that desire and passion to carry you through the harder scenes, and make sure that novel is finished. And even once it’s finished … how can you expect an agent to believe in your work, if you don’t believe in it too. Fight for the right for someone to read your work!
Check out So Am I an Author Yet?!
And here’s the knife-edge … the careful balance between believing in your work, and being so blinded by your own efforts that you can’t tell the wheat from the chaff. Not everything you write is going to be amazing. Fact! So make sure you retain the objectivity to re-read your own work, and edit it accordingly. As we’ve been discussing before, the joy of the digital age means that removing something doesn’t mean it has to be lost forever to the cutting room floor. The more objectively you can edit your own work, the less work you leave for an agent and publisher, and the more likely you are to secure those two people.
See also – Getting Represented