Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Writing A Novel - No Nos

In getting ready for today's post in the Writing A Novel from A to Z challenge I mulled over a number of "N" ideas - NaNoWriMo, Narrator, and Naming Characters came to mind - but in the last couple of weeks I keep getting confronted by another facet of writing a novel: what we shouldn't do when taking on the project. With that in mind, I decided to share some novel writing No Nos in today's post.

No No #1: "Dreaming" of Being a Writer

Do not dream of writing a novel; write one.

I have had this conversation with a number of writers, often after I check out their Twitter profile and see "wannabe writer" or "aspiring writer." My first question to them is, "Are you writing?" If the answer is yes, then the conversation is over - they are writers. However, this week I came upon a blog post that dug even deeper into the misconception of the writer's dream. It was by Cathy Yardley and it was called Is Your Writing a Business or a Dream?

That article is a must-read for all writers. The idea behind it is simple: writing is work, it is a business and, to put it in my own perspective, there is no finish line. There's no point where you've "made it." Writing your novel is one stage, getting it published is another, following that up with getting people to buy and read it is another, and if you think that's it, then that's where your dream will slowly turn into a nightmare! Because, to be a writer, means that whole process happens ad infinitum until the day you retire.

No No #2: Making Your Editor Crazy

Editors make writers glow. I often feel like editors should have their names on the covers of novels with the authors for all the work they do. So, when an editor gives writing advice, I sit up and listen.

This week I found a hilarious article entitled Words I Never Want To See In Your Novel. Please. written by developmental editor and copywriter, Jaime Chavez. Needless to say I was blushing. She got my number on a couple of those phrases that I am now abolishing (or, at least, I am trying to) from my vocabulary. It reminded me of a time one of my lessons was recorded and my students and I noticed how many times I said, "absolutely." I gave them all the job of calling me out whenever I said "absolutely" - I got over that one quick!

Every point Jaime made was a completely valid one. The words she wishes not to see are obvious signs of a naive novelist. I found another blog post that laid out even more Plague Words and Phrases to avoid so I do make my someday editor crazy!

No No #3: Giving Your Character a "Classic" Name

Naming characters does deserve a post all its own, but taking a moment to look at the names that it may be time to avoid can be addressed here. Esther Inglis-Arkel believes These Character Names Should Be Banned:
  • Lucy
  • Cain, Kane, or Kayne (or, for that matter, Khan)
  • Mal
  • Cassandra
  • Abel
  • Goodman or Christianson
  • Damian
  • Beth
  • Judas
  • Lenina
  • Dyson
  •  Fuller
  • Adams and O'Neill
  • Doyle
  • Adam and Eve
  • Noah
  • Moses
  • Joshua
  • Mary
  • Ruth
  • Rebecca
  • Edward and Heathcliff
  • Katherine, Kate, Kay, Kathleen, Caitlin, Cathy, or Cat
Before you get all up in arms, wondering What's left? I recommend you take a look at Esther's article to see her arguments against each of these names. In some, they are genre-specific, in others, you may find out that you are not clever as you think.

Thanks for reading!
Do you have any novel writing No Nos to add to the list?


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