Improving Your Craft: Awareness of Bad Habits

DSC_1287In 2012, I began a book called Wings of Skell. During re-writes, it was
renamed Planes Shifter. As of May 2016, I own over 50 copies of the draft manuscript, and it’s currently called Darkening Skies.

I’ve been pretty good at completing two novel manuscripts a year — I can finish stories, which is one of the biggest blocks for writers. But the editing process is definitely something I want to streamline. So far this year, I’ve done a full read-through of two different works-in-progress.

Grammar Habits

In first drafts in particular, I’m focusing on the story — I don’t worry overly about grammatical aspects. However, this often means that I need to re-write large chunks of my scenes as I don’t vary my sentence lengths. Equally, I use a lot of the word “as,”  which leads to passive sentences of all around 10-13 words.

Plotting Issues

Until I found a plotting method which worked for me, I used to complete manuscripts at speed; filling in gaps with whatever was in my head at the time. This led to pretty predictable storylines, with ‘cool twists’ which I then found it difficult to go back and justify. They often had a ‘deus ex machina’ feel, which when justified, became quite obvious. It took me a few novels to fix this – planning a few twists from the beginning, discarding the first ‘cool ideas.’

Editing versus Rewriting

When I began editing, my main focus was on rewriting. There’s something about knowing exactly which path the story has taken that makes me want to add in little hints and re-write very early scenes to capture the new tone. However, the character as I’ve been writing them recently (at the end of the story) is often stronger in some way; through power, knowledge or inner strength and re-writing their thoughts without that arc is a particular difficulty for me.

~

Having these habits is not the end of my writing, but it is something to be aware of. And like most things, these bad habits will shift. I grow as a writer, and with more experience, my key issues will change. The main thing is to be aware of them and flag up any known issues as early as I can, making the edits at the end much smoother.

What are your key issues when looking back at an early draft?

How do you handle those habits?

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