So as 2016 winds down, and I (and hopefully you as well) start planning out all of the things I want to do next year. While I don’t always hide my real feelings about Christmas (hint: They aren’t good) New Year’s Eve is perhaps my favorite day of the year. It may even edge out Halloween. That’s a close call.
Anyhow, every year I look back at some of my larger accomplishments and also set some pretty ambitious goals. Check out my post last year for a good laugh, as I totally changed my priorities and didn’t hit any of those goals.
But that’s okay; they were good goals at the time. And I’ll do the same thing again this year. Only maybe with an either-or option.
So, now that I’m way off topic and talking about my next post instead of this one, let’s move on to this post. Since I do often tell you what you should be doing as a writer, I thought I’d shake things up and give you five things you should not be doing. Maybe that sounds negative, but that’s not my intention at all. These are all things that hurt your writing, and by avoiding them, you will become a better writer.
1. Don’t head-hop
Now pay attention to what I actually mean by this. I’m not saying “Don’t change POV characters in a story.” I’m not saying that at all. What I’m talking about here is when it’s clear that your story is being told from the POV of one character, but then other characters’ thoughts occasional work their way in. That’s head-hopping. And doing it makes you look like an amateur.
2. Don’t change tense midway
Your story is written either in the past or present. I prefer the past tense myself, but it’s up to you. What’s not up to you is to switch. I know it can be tricky and switching tense is rarely intentional, but just try to be as careful as you can and avoid it. I do have to say, as a disclaimer, I do have a few short stories that switch from past to present at some point during the story. In Memory of the Brightwell Family does this, and in that case, I feel it’s effective. So play it by ear, just don’t do it by mistake.
3. Don’t get passive
Active, not passive. Remember that always! The passive voice just doesn’t sell. Instead of describe it to you, I’ll give you this examples: “The window was closed by Jack.” Or “Jack closed the window.” Which do you prefer?
4. Don’t forget to end the story
As the sole editor of Theme of Absence, and an avid reader of Stephen King, I’ve read far too many stories or novel that simply don’t end. Don’t do that. The cliff-hanger ending should be used very very very rarely, if at all. And, yes, I’ve done it too. We all have. But it’s a form of abuse. When readers invest time and emotion into your characters and story, they deserve a resolution. It’s okay to leave a few open ends, but your main storyline needs to be resolved.
5. Don’t get lazy
Show me, don’t tell me. Need I say more?
Bonus: Don’t get discouraged
I’ve been living in Discouragedland in the last few days. I set up this huge “get shit done” list of things I wanted to get done over Christmas break, but the combination of sick kids and broken computers have gotten in the way. And I’ve been totally sad and discouraged by it. But you know what? Life happens. And sometimes life gets in the way of your writing. So suck it up, deal with it, and then move on. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but perhaps the most important one.
So thinks for reading. It’s been a pretty good year, and I hope yours has been as well. I’ll be back Friday with a New Year’s edition of 5 Links Friday, and then a Dec 31 / Jan 1 post about goals and accomplishments for 2017.
So until then, have a great week and if you’ve got any quick “Don’t do”s to add, feel free to leave a comment.
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