Rookie Mistakes?

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Ishta
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Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Ishta » June 18th, 2010, 5:35 pm

I've noticed a few posts here and there about people noticing "rookie mistakes", and Nathan mentioned them in his blog, so I'm wondering: what are the big ones? I'm a rookie, and I'd love to know what the usual rookie mistakes are so I can avoid them!

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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Margo » June 18th, 2010, 7:02 pm

These are just a matter of opinion, of course, but I feel like my biggest rookie mistakes have been:

-trying to argue with crits (Take 'em or leave 'em, but don't argue.)
-querying too soon
-not taking the time to really really really learn my genre and the industry (much easier in the Internet age)
-not approaching professional writing as a serious business (I don't feel like writing; I'm not inspired. I really need 200k words or seven books for a story this complex. I don't need to learn craft and structure; I'm an artist.)

Or were you thinking about mistakes from the craft perspective? I have a whoooole 'nother set of those.
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Down the well
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Down the well » June 18th, 2010, 7:29 pm

I agree with Margo that querying too soon is a huge rookie mistake. Once a novel is written it takes a lot of input from other people to get it into publishable shape. I think most "experienced" writers know that their work needs to go through the filter of a critique group or set of trusted readers before sending it off for consideration by an agent or editor.

Also, I think "rookies" underestimate the competition. There are some damn good writers out there getting rejected every day. It's a long, hard slog to publication. For some, It can take years and years of dedicated writing to finally hit on something that the industry thinks is both well-written and commercial enough to take a risk on.

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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by maybegenius » June 18th, 2010, 7:48 pm

Definitely depends on which mistakes you're referring to - craft, publishing, agents... there are lots of mistakes to make, and lots of people make them while they're learning the ropes :) Many mistakes are avoidable provided you do your research ahead of time and take your writing seriously.

Margo's suggestions are big ones that I've seen a lot, as well. Others include contacting agents/editors inappropriately (like calling or physically visiting an agency without an appointment - that's a big no-no), responding to a rejection of your manuscript with either questions ("what's wrong with my novel?") or rudeness, sending out "test" queries before your novel is really finished, or something like that. You have to be really patient to get published. Really, really patient :)
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by polymath » June 18th, 2010, 9:02 pm

My first rookie mistake was thinking it was all right to submit a manuscript that wasn't ready anyway. My second rookie mistake was submitting a carelessly, anger-written, sexual-innuendo filled, thinly-veiled sarcastic composition the target audience loved, much to my naive embarrassment from the startling attention it drew. It took me awhile to figure out why the audience easily bridged gaps I'd intended to be less bridgeable. Years later, my third rookie mistake was assuming a writer who asked for a no-holds-barred critique actually meant it.
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Down the well » June 18th, 2010, 10:11 pm

polymath wrote:My second rookie mistake was submitting a carelessly, anger-written, sexual-innuendo filled, thinly-veiled sarcastic composition the target audience loved, much to my naive embarrassment from the startling attention it drew. It took me awhile to figure out why the audience easily bridged gaps I'd intended to be less bridgeable.
I think we might need to see some of this in the feedback section. :-)

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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by polymath » June 18th, 2010, 11:03 pm

Down the well wrote:
polymath wrote:My second rookie mistake was submitting a carelessly, anger-written, sexual-innuendo filled, thinly-veiled sarcastic composition the target audience loved, much to my naive embarrassment from the startling attention it drew. It took me awhile to figure out why the audience easily bridged gaps I'd intended to be less bridgeable.
I think we might need to see some of this in the feedback section. :-)
It was a puerile parody of primary school Dick and Jane readers I wrote thirty-nine years ago. My teacher didn't return it, so it's not in my scrapbook. I don't care to resurrect it now. Jane waited with Spot for Dick. No plot, no character development, no setting development, no transformation, no revelation, no twist or trick ending, no ending for that matter, pure tell, and goldarned hilarious to the middle school's eighth grade writing classes and English instructors who passed it around between their classes. The audience response to it showed me the power of audience rapport for trumping fundamental creative writing principles, which is where I wish I'd focused my efforts so long ago. Audience rapport I mean. I was a one-day hero to my classmates. The next week, I lost their respect altogether by testing out of a school district mandated year-long refresher course in grammar skills for all English classes.

The faculty advisor I was assigned to for my year of independent English study was miffed he had to do extra work, the same one whose class I'd been in. He told me I could read any novels I wanted but I had to write a weekly response paper, not a book report, a literary response. That was it, no more prompts or rubrics or advices. I felt like I was thrown out with the bath water. My quarterly grades were D, C, B, A. Rookie mistakes, no good deed goes unpunished, and volunteering is its own punishment.
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Margo » June 18th, 2010, 11:53 pm

polymath wrote:Years later, my third rookie mistake was assuming a writer who asked for a no-holds-barred critique actually meant it.
I am still making this rookie mistake. I had one incident end so badly I had to threaten to get the police involved.
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Ishta
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Ishta » June 19th, 2010, 12:09 am

I was actually thinking of mistakes of craft, but it's good to highlight these mistakes of practice, too.

I can never get over the ones where people show up on the doorstep of an agency or publishing house, or mail personal things like lockets or teeth with their queries. What are these people thinking? CREEPY. And, doing that kind of thing shows that you haven't researched the submissions process, because warnings not to do that are EVERYWHERE.

But back to the subject at hand: anyone got some examples of mistakes rookies make when crafting their novel? The kind of thing you would pick up on as you read through the manuscript?

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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by aspiring_x » June 19th, 2010, 12:42 am

passive voice, info dumping, dialogue tags, adverb-mania, pet-words, elipsis overusage... hmmmm. what else?

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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by cheekychook » June 19th, 2010, 12:49 am

Head hopping....changing pov within a scene (without warning)... knowing things the pov character can't possibly know...
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Claudie » June 19th, 2010, 1:27 am

Cardboard secondary characters as plot device. Main characters getting all they want, or being forgiven actions they really should be punished for.

And for fantasy writers, settings that make no sense, with cultural attitudes or habits that are never explained. I'm an avid fan of second-world fantasy. I love different worlds. But you need an explanation for them, and too often I see debut novels that only say "that's how things are", and I never get hints as to why. On the other hand, too much information turns to infodump, another rookie mistake. I think it takes experience to strike the right balance.
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Margo » June 19th, 2010, 1:58 am

Ditto to the ones already listed. Double-ditto to the unbelievable, underdeveloped sci-fi or fantasy worlds. Also, villains who are evil just for the sake of being evil. Being too nice to the good guys. Too many secondary characters. Chunks of backstory anywhere in the first 50 pages. Dialogue that is just pointless chit-chat (including witty banter that doesn't advance plot or build character). Scenes taken up by driving from one place to another or coffee-drinking. MC's who are TSTL (too stupid to live) for the sake of plot advancement. Using coincidence as a replacement for plot. Hiding info-dumps in dialogue (typically starting off, "As you know, Bob..."). Problems that are overcome waaaaay too easily and usually in a couple of pages. OMG, how could I forget??? Describing the main character by having him/her stand in front of or pass by a mirror or other reflective surface and pause to admire his/her own heart-shaped face or strong jaw and piercing blue/emerald green/chocolate brown/slate gray eyes and flowing/unruly cascades of hair.
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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by otherside89girl » June 19th, 2010, 2:47 am

Margo wrote:OMG, how could I forget??? Describing the main character by having him/her stand in front of or pass by a mirror or other reflective surface and pause to admire his/her own heart-shaped face or strong jaw and piercing blue/emerald green/chocolate brown/slate gray eyes and flowing/unruly cascades of hair.
hahahaha...hahaha... Yeah. Don't do that. Ever.

I've noticed (editing my own work... I'm a rookie, too) that I wayyyy overuse dialogue tags. Someone else mentioned that. And adverbs. These things are no-nos, ask anyone on these forums. :)

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Re: Rookie Mistakes?

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » June 19th, 2010, 7:04 am

Margo wrote: OMG, how could I forget??? Describing the main character by having him/her stand in front of or pass by a mirror or other reflective surface and pause to admire his/her own heart-shaped face or strong jaw and piercing blue/emerald green/chocolate brown/slate gray eyes and flowing/unruly cascades of hair.
Hey, I admire my strong jaw and piercing blue eyes all the time in real life. Is this bad?



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