Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tales From the Trunk

This weekend I rummaged through “the trunk”.

There sooo should be an ominous dunh dunh dunh dunh after that.

This is the trunk where I keep my old stories. We’re talking about my teenage Sweet Valley High-esque stories starring Donnie Wahlberg to my more current freaky stories starring whoever pops across my radar. Usually someone with longish hair who’s muscled and sex-on-a-stick beautiful.

The purpose of the trip down memory lane? I’m finishing up my current work in progress and am fishing for ideas. You never know where the next one will come from. An old idea can be revamped and just plain vamped up. Donnie Wahlberg can morph into Antonio Banderas and the jealous ex-girlfriend can transform into the disturbed secretary who hid her homicidal tendencies until the hero’s love for the heroine triggered her psychotic break. Hey! Let me write that down…

The one thing I came away with? My writing has come a loooong way! Whew boy! While reading I cringed and yelled WTF so many times I ended up with a crick in my neck and a blue streaked cloud above my head. The top violators that I can share only because I—thank God!—have become better with them are:

1. There was so much purple prose you would’ve thought the story was an ode to Barney! Vaginas were blooming and laughter was tinkling all over the place! How does one’s genitalia unfurl anyway?

2. I enjoyed a fifteen-year-long love affair with adverbs. Slowly. Quickly. Wryly. Continually. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly. Okay, I was a tad bit facetious but my point is I’ve come to appreciate and utilize stronger verbs. Definitely.

3. Wait. Listen. Did you hear that? A shut door. Ooh! There’s another one. I never delved behind the closed door! While reading I was left wondering what happened? And I wrote it! I didn’t liberate my inner vixen until a couple of years ago and how sad is it that I was left frustrated by my own writing? Sheesh! I was a prude!

4. If I paused, I threw in a comma. If I breathed, yawned or scratched something I threw in a comma. If it just sounded like it needed a comma I added it. Except where they were required…like after dialogue with a tag. Through the power of a comma quiz, great critique partners and a fabulous editor, I am learning not to abuse them. It’s a hard road but I am treading it…

5. My characters now have goal, motivation and conflict. Back then. Umm…not so much. My stories really could’ve been completed in three chapters because all my characters had to do was have a ten-minute conversation and *ABRACADABRA* problem solved. Not to mention, they argued a lot but damned if I know why…

So I have shared my literary foibles with you. What writing faux pas have you been guilty of?

10 comments:

Wynter Daniels said...

I was totally guilty of adverb overload, too. And I was queen of the cliché. Like yours, my characters only needed that one conversation to fix everything. Thank goodness we progressed past there!

Stephanie Adkins said...

OMG! Have you been peeking into some of my old work too? LOL!!! I'm guilty of every one of those, Naima. Especially when it comes to the purple prose and commas, which STILL trip me up even now (those evil little devils). Great post! :)

Savannah Stuart said...

As my critique partners could tell you, commas are the bane of my existence. I put them wherever I feel like on any given day. I'm very thankful for my CPs :) And when I first started writing, I had issues with dangling participles. Luckily I've learned from my mistakes.

Michelle Polaris said...

Commas, dangling participles, long conversations, backstory, passive sentences, cliches, adverb overuse,the list goes on and on. It's amazing I ever progressed enough to be published. Guess if you get enough helpful feedback some of the advice can't help but seep in. Thank God.

Cara McKenna said...

I'm a new writer, having only started really pursuing it in the last year and a half (I've been praised for my writing all my life, but always backseated it in favor of the visual arts.) It's been a crash course for me, and through the help of workshops and craft books and crit partners and a beta reader who won't stand for anyone to pen yet another lousy romance on her watch, I have overcome most of my sins. I hope.

My very first manuscript was FULL of italics. I didn't totally get that the fact that story was in heroine's POV meant the narrative was automatically her perception of things. So instead I crowbarred her thoughts into potential readers' eyeholes at every turn. And despite the italics, most all her internal monologue included the tag, "Claire thought." Boy, did she. It's a wonder Claire got laid in that story, given how much time she spent pondering things.

Things also seemed to be forever happening "suddenly" around Claire. And she was always "starting" to do things. She loved herself some passive verbage. And ellipses! Hot…damn!

Over a year after I thought I'd finished that story, it's now finally in decent shape, following about six deep revisions. The only thing I didn't have to finesse much was the dialogue—dialogue's always been easy for me. I pretty much memorized everything Billy Strunk and Stevie King had to say and took it all to heart. Judging contests helped tremendously too, and made me a WAY better self-editor.

It's been quite a whirlwind education…Cara began to whistfully think suddenly to herself.

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Wynter!
Not only did my characters need one good conversation but I swear they fought over the dumbest things! LOL! I'm now of the opinion if I had written more sex in the stories they all would've been happier!

Naima Simone said...

LOL!! Stephanie, it feels so good to know I wasn't the only one! The commas--I'm just going to pray my editor and critique partners don't take a rolled up newspaper and slap me on the nose! LOL! The rest of it--Whew! I was just sitting there with my mouth wide open like, what the *$*#&!)*$& was I thinking?? LOL!

Naima Simone said...

Ummm...the misplaced modifier and I are still having one-night stands, Savannah...hee-hee-hee!

And oh yes!!! Your cover for "Worth the Risk" is so sensual! I love it!

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Michelle!
Okay, looking at your list I now believe I have to expand mine. LOL! I forgot about the backstory and passive voice. Sheesh! Maybe I was interested in Donnie Wahlberg and my history about our hot one-night affair that resulted in a love child but I'm sure a reader would've preferred it be sprinkled through the story...I'm just saying...

Naima Simone said...

Y'know, Cara, as I read your comment it suddenly came to me that I too had an issue with "suddenly" until my critique partner pointed it out to me. And it suddenly hit me that, hey, STOP THAT!! LOL!!