Rookie Mistakes?

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Down the well
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Down the well » June 21st, 2010, 9:34 am

izanobu wrote:My biggest rookie mistake that I made for years was getting (and taking) writing/publishing advice from other newbs instead of seeking out established professionals and people who were ahead of me on the path I wanted to be on. So I'd say: don't listen to people who are where you are, listen to people who've made it to where you want to be :)
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polymath
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by polymath » June 21st, 2010, 11:08 am

Excluding writing advices from any source condemns the collective wisdoms and core purposes of writing discussions, now ever more accessible due to digital technologies. I've seen some real doozies proclaimed by widely respected experts, no more and no less commonly than from emerging authors. Everyone has at least one doozie. Aristotle, for example, states: The proper central subjects for drama are high-born citizen men. Women, commoners, servants, children, animals, and objects are improper central subjects for drama. They're okay as extras, and auxilliary and supporting characters. Aristotle's view prevailed for two milennia.

An accomplished author I respect says never use the term newbie for struggling writers. The only newbie writers I know of are entering grammar school. He's also got a pet peeve about the term aspiring writers. Admirable viewpoints that respect fellow travelers' progresses and sensibilities. His advice doozie is leaven and disguise author reported opinions judiciously into the mix of narrator reported and viewpoint character attitudes so a message is delivered loud and crystal clear. That one is a little out of vogue too.

Hemingway's top four writing advices include, avoid negating terms. He means modifier valence, not the polarity of negativity and positivity. Say what something is rather than what it isn't. A negated example: His advices are not consistent with his actions, meaning, do as I say, not as I do. His actions contradict his advices, is the positive of the former negated not consistent construction, also inconsistent is a negation. However, negating terms are a basic function of irony for the benefit of narrative and character voices, sweet sweet rhetorical purposes, especially litotes and understatements.

My advice doozie is a private self-imposed rule, not a global edict. Never ever never say never, or contrarily, never say never. Never is an unconditional adverb, a negation adverb no less.
Last edited by polymath on June 21st, 2010, 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by izanobu » June 21st, 2010, 11:30 am

I didn't mean it in a personal way, geez. I meant that it is generally helpful to listen to the advice of people who are where you want to be, rather than people who aren't. I guess you can substitute "beginning or aspiring professional" for "newbie", if that helps clarify what I meant.

There are tons of blogs and writing help resources on the net by established, well-published authors that give lots of advice. My point is that, for me, until I stopped listening to the things that were just being repeated by people without the experience to back them up and went to the sources of information, I wasn't really improving or learning what the mistakes I was making were. So, again, in my opinion, my biggest rookie mistake was not getting advice from people who had already taken the beginner's knocks and moved along the path I wanted to follow.

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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by cheekychook » June 21st, 2010, 11:41 am

izanobu wrote:My biggest rookie mistake that I made for years was getting (and taking) writing/publishing advice from other newbs instead of seeking out established professionals and people who were ahead of me on the path I wanted to be on. So I'd say: don't listen to people who are where you are, listen to people who've made it to where you want to be :)
I agree it's great to get advice from people who are where you want to be---they have likely learned from the process they had to go through to get there, and what they've learned is likely info that will be helpful if they can pass it on to you. However, I don't think anyone needs writing success, or even to be a writer at all, to give useful critique to a "rookie" writer. Anyone who reads can be a potential spotter of rookie mistakes. In the broadest of terms the biggest rookie mistake is writing something that doesn't come across well to readers, for whatever reason. It only takes a reader to spot those mistakes; no writing expertise necessary.
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by polymath » June 21st, 2010, 11:42 am

"Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him."

William Faulkner, 1956 interview in The Paris Review, source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Faulkner
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Claudie » June 21st, 2010, 11:49 am

izanobu wrote:My biggest rookie mistake that I made for years was getting (and taking) writing/publishing advice from other newbs instead of seeking out established professionals and people who were ahead of me on the path I wanted to be on. So I'd say: don't listen to people who are where you are, listen to people who've made it to where you want to be :)
I think you should rephrase that. It would be a better idea to "consider carefully" advice given by other 'rookies'. Yes, it's wise not to take everything they say for granted - they are, after all, still on the road to learning. On the other hand, everyone is, even the best, frequently-published writers.

Furthermore, not everyone learns at the same pace. You might have learned to avoid a mistake another rookie makes all the time, but it's true the other way around. Said rookie might have learned something you don't know yet.

So, really, when you're given advice - no matter by whom - I think the best is to stop and give it careful thought. Does it make sense? Would it make your writing better? But I'll give it to you, I would give more weight to what a published's author tell me than to another 'rookie'. But it's worth looking. It always is.
polymath wrote:The issue I see is unsettled voice, when a narrative shifts awkwardly from a lecturing-from-a-stage author commentary to narrator observation to narrator reported viewpoint character perception and cognition and back and forth without a meaningful rhetorical purpose.
This comment has a lot of merit, especially as it is very hard to fix such a mistake. It takes a lot more work than removing adverbs or giving relief to the characters, and there isn't a lot of advice out there to help writers struggling with it.
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by polymath » June 21st, 2010, 8:13 pm

Thank you, Claudie.

One of the few poetics discussions I've found that offers answers for settling voice is Seymour Chatman's Story and Discourse. It's not a writing how-to. Chatman discusses how voice has been done well in its myriad guises, in some examples not so artfully, with ample examples. It's show not tell. James Wood's How Fiction Works also discusses aspects of voice and other poetics topics.

I don't buy reference books unless I've sampled them or can't do without them. I sampled Chatman at Google Books, then checked out a copy through interlibrary loan. If I had two bills to rub together, I'd buy a copy for my writing bookshelf.
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by J. T. SHEA » June 21st, 2010, 8:17 pm

Margot, I did not 'equate not defaulting to a cliche' to defensive writing' but I did compare the two and I believe those categories overlap. Avoidance has a place in writing, as in life, but it can be overdone in both areas.

Know the rules of your genre? Absolutely, and when and where to break them.

Izanobu, Polymath, I too find the terms 'rookie' and 'newbie' are sometimes used in a demeaning manner. I TAKE advice from just about anybody. FOLLOWING the advice is a different matter...

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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by cheekychook » June 22nd, 2010, 12:22 pm

Okay, so last night I'm watching The Bachelorette and there's an assignment given to the group of the guys---they're supposed to write a poem for the woman whose heart they're trying to win. When they're done they read the poems aloud to her. Generally speaking they're pretty awful, but hey, this isn't The Writer, it's The Bachelorette. One of the last guys starts to read his poem and walks toward her, sitting down on the bench next to her just as he delivers the line "your rich root beer eyes"---and I burst out laughing. Now, outbursts from me are not an uncommon occurrence while this show is on; the reason my friends all watch at my house is that I always know all the spoilers and inside stories. This time, though, my laughter came directly from this thread and the ongoing discussion about the best way to describe things like eye color; so I had to tell you all. Oh, by the way, the guy who wrote the root beer enhanced line is a store manager by day but an aspiring screenWRITER by night. All makes sense now, eh?
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Claudie » June 22nd, 2010, 12:46 pm

Now that's hilarious. Root beer is definitely not the way I'd use to describe someone's eyes, unless the VOP has some sort of root beer obsession, at which point it's still hilarious, but goes to show how pathetic the character is. Poor store manager still has a long way to go, though.
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by aspiring_x » June 22nd, 2010, 2:43 pm

Quoth the Bran-man:
"Too often, aspiring writers try to reinvent the hovercraft when it comes to crafting totally unique phrases, and the writing doesn't come across as effortlessly as it needs to in order to keep the reader engaged with the story. There are turns of phrase in this page that strive for originality at the expense of (my favorite writing word you know it's coming here it is): precision. I'm just not sure some of the turns of phrase ...achieved more than a simpler phrase or word choice would have in the same place.

This is such a tricky thing - you definitely want to be unique, but at the same time you don't want to lose the reader. Better to trust in the precision of your writing and the uniqueness of your characters and achieve style through cadence, perspective, and through your characters coming alive rather than trying to do so through complicated turns of phrases, particularly in an action scene."

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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Margo » June 22nd, 2010, 3:26 pm

Uh, yeah.

We seem to be stuck in total black-and-white thinking when it comes to description on this thread. Unless it's a cliche, it involves google and hovercrafts. Chocolate or root beer. Rabbits or smeeps. And no writer should ever be trusted to venture into the territory between the extremes. In fact, it apparently doesn't exist.

[Edit: Although I really would like to see a full story or novel using only the precision and uniqueness of characters, style, and cadence to describe people, places, and things. It could be an interesting exercise. I just might try it.]
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Margo » June 22nd, 2010, 3:50 pm

J. T. SHEA wrote:Margot, I did not 'equate not defaulting to a cliche' to defensive writing' but I did compare the two and I believe those categories overlap. Avoidance has a place in writing, as in life, but it can be overdone in both areas.
Yes, and areas where they do not overlap. Is this not desirable territory?

And, yes, avoidance can be overdone. The opposite can also be overdone.
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by aspiring_x » June 22nd, 2010, 4:32 pm

perhaps this is a thread where everyone is saying the same thing, but in a different way. no one thinks that we should always default to cliche. no one thinks we should overstretch for unique writing. i think we all agree the middle ground is most desirable. but i wonder about two points of discrepency:

1. do you believe "cliche" or as i like to refer to it "common phrasing" is ever acceptable? i vote yes. if not used as a crutch, sometimes using familiar terms is the most precise method to evoke the imagery you wish to relay.

2. do you think that "cliche" is a term too loosely thrown around? sometimes i think wonderfully intelligent writer-folk get trapped into a mentality of superiority. instead of enjoying reading, stories, characters, etc. we get distracted by pet peeve terminology, and deem such phrasings as cliche. i don't think any of us want to read the same thing over and over again, but i find that people throw around the word cliche like they don't know anyother words.

sure words should be used correctly and precisely. sure words can be strung together in ways that take your breath away. but not every sentence needs to be poetry. sometimes, isn't it best to just get to the point?

i think the general rules of thumb should be: when i read this aloud does it make me stumble over words? and is this phrasing the same thing i hear all the time? if we answer yes to either of these questions we've probably missed the mark.

but i could be wrong, of course... that happens alot. :)

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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Margo » June 22nd, 2010, 5:38 pm

aspiring_x wrote:but i wonder about two points of discrepency:

1. do you believe "cliche" or as i like to refer to it "common phrasing" is ever acceptable? i vote yes. if not used as a crutch, sometimes using familiar terms is the most precise method to evoke the imagery you wish to relay.
I vote yes, though not often. Some cliches are just too much for me, even if they are pithy, to the point, and take only three words instead of five. Others I appreciate for the fact that they can lend voice to a character. And I do see a spectrum with 'familiar terms' or 'common phrasing' not necessarily straying all the way into cliche territory. Much of this is subjective, though I think there are some phrases the majority of people would agree are cliches and can make prose sound stilted.
aspiring_x wrote:2. do you think that "cliche" is a term too loosely thrown around? sometimes i think wonderfully intelligent writer-folk get trapped into a mentality of superiority. instead of enjoying reading, stories, characters, etc. we get distracted by pet peeve terminology, and deem such phrasings as cliche. I don't think any of us want to read the same thing over and over again, but i find that people throw around the word cliche like they don't know anyother words.
I would say this is the case sometimes. But a distraction is a distraction and an invitation to stop reading.
aspiring_x wrote:sure words should be used correctly and precisely. sure words can be strung together in ways that take your breath away. but not every sentence needs to be poetry. sometimes, isn't it best to just get to the point?
I'm not convinced that a cliche is necessary to 'just get to the point'. Sometimes the cliche is more wordy and less precise; it's just the first thing that comes to mind. It's just easy.
aspiring_x wrote:i think the general rules of thumb should be: when i read this aloud does it make me stumble over words? and is this phrasing the same thing i hear all the time? if we answer yes to either of these questions we've probably missed the mark. .


I agree completely.
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