Ok, I’m putting my neck on the line here and naming the most common pitfalls I have seen emerging talents fall into. In today’s blog, I baldly name and shame what I would happily never encounter again:
- An entire chapter revolving around a character walking or driving from A-B alone, interspersed by long passages of back story.
- An entire chapter set around a character in bed/in nature/alone reminiscing.
- Melodramatic chapter cliff hangers. Your story is either engrossing or not. A pining character is not the answer.
- Making the same point in ten different ways –all on the same page.
- Belabouring the point. [See above]
- Describing objects/landscapes/surroundings in miniscule detail over countless pages. Poetry is a gift not a licence.
And I can say all this because, early on as a writer, I have been guilty of most of the above. Ok, who am I kidding? I have been guilty of all of the above at one time or another. And so, today, I invite you to kill off your darlings publicly. Copy and paste them in the comment section of Writers & Artists and, like sealing an envelope, let it go. If the piece is that good, someone will surely encourage you to put it back in.
“Retreating to the cabin’s bedroom in the cool peach light of mid-afternoon, Dorothy felt the contours of Katy’s lumpy rucksack one last time before sliding it under the wooden frame of the bed. She had discerned the outline of several boot heels inside, an oversized toiletries bag, and then the corner of something hard and rectangular. Could this be what she was looking for? But the more her fingers had shaped the outline of the item, the more convinced she grew that it was simply a hardback novel. A journal would have a more supple cover. She didn’t dare go into the bag though. There were some answers she wasn’t ready for yet.
Shivering, she plugged in the electric heater, in the corner of the room, and turned the nozzle as high as it would go. Removing her shoes, but keeping her socks on, she shuffled down under the crisp, lemon sheets, massaging her bad hip with one hand. The cold always made it ache more. It was 3 o’clock. The funeral wasn’t until tomorrow lunchtime. Twenty two hours. Only twenty two more hours to stay strong. She picked up a worn-looking crime paperback from the bedside cabinet, and was ...”