Everyone makes mistakes – even writers – but that’s a good thing because every mistake is a great learning opportunity. The Writer’s Digest team has seen many errors over the years, so we started this series to help identify them early in the process. Note: The errors in this series do not focus on grammar, although we provide help in this area as well.
(Grammar for the book.)
Instead, we’re researching bigger picture bugs and mishaps, including the mistake of using too much rendering, neglecting to search, or searching too much. The clerical mistake this week made by writers is to reject other genres.
Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Excluding Other Kinds
As a child, I was obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe. I was particularly fascinated by how he could write poetry And And both were equally attractive.
Therefore, when I started my own creative work, I wrote a lot of poetry. Most of it was terrible. But I had a lot of fun with it, and it was a nice break between writing longer works.
It wasn’t until after I got my bachelor’s degree that I had the opportunity to really study hair mechanics. In class, we learned many standard poetic forms, wrote in those forms, and were then encouraged to take those poems and modify them. I learned a lot about word choice, dramatic tension, and especially how to engage someone’s senses through writing poetry. All of these skills enhanced my fiction writing.
She also did a fair amount of acting in high school and got involved in acting in college. There was just something about writing and performing monologues that I loved, and I was even able to take a literature class that focused on plays. I’ve always loved writing dialogue, but when you read text after text and discuss with others how they interpret a character based only on dialogue and some stage direction, it can be pretty amazing. For me, it allowed me to be more accurate with the voices of my fictional characters and helped me include more than just speech to embody a character. Even small details like a character quietly putting down a beer bottle before getting up to join a bar fight can tell the reader a lot about who that character is.
All this is to say that I wouldn’t be the fiction writer I am today if I only focused on reading and studying the novel. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to take classes or go to conferences to learn about the different genres, there are plenty of ways you can excel in your reading and open your mind to what might be missing.
Bug fix: Fork!
When you’re looking to get out of your comfort zone, it can be hard to find materials at first. Then, when you find the material, how do you translate it into something that will help you with your projects?
Here are some tips and tricks to get started.
If you’re not used to reading poetry, it can be intimidating to know where to start. A site like Goodreads might be a good option for you! You’ll be able to browse user-generated book lists, see upcoming posts, and even read community reviews to see which books will be more interesting to you.
Once you start reading poetry, I recommend taking notes as you read. What pictures catch your eye in particular? What words or phrases make it stand out? How does the poem engage your senses? How does it make you feel?
If you’d like to dig deeper into your studies, writer and editor Matthew Dadona has an excellent article on creating tension, our Senior Editor and Resident Poetry Expert Robert Lee Brewer takes a look at what makes a good poem, and Robert’s online guide The Complete Guide to Poetics: Over 100 Definitions of Poetics and Examples of Poets Offered for sale in our WD Store.
2. My stories
Again, sites like Goodreads are a good way to see what other people are reading and what they have to say about what they’ve read.
When you read a non-fiction book, think about how the author makes connections between the subject and the reader. Are they asking the reader to put themselves in a situation? What type of language do they use when discussing a difficult topic? Do they use humor at all? What do you like about how the author deals with the topic? Was there anything that kept you away from you?
And to further your studies, here are a few articles here on the site that you can check out:
Finally, scripts are another genre that I always encourage people to explore. As an actor, I used to rely on Dramatists Play Service (DPS) to get the scripts I was most interested in. Actor copies are very cheap, and unless you are producing and performing the play, you don’t need to pay for the performance rights. It’s also where I got one of my all-time favorite plays, Inquisitive wild. During a comedy, she taught me a lot about balancing humor and pain in the same scene. But you can find plays of all lengths, genres, and acting sizes.
While reading the texts, try to visualize the scene as much as possible. Analyze dialogue and stage trends; What do they tell you about the characters? How is the setting used to enhance the plot? How are props used to create a scene? Is there something specific about the way the characters interact that gives you insight into their relationships? And how does the scene remain balanced if there are a lot of characters talking in the same scene?
And of course, if you want to view things through the lens of a screenwriter, don’t forget to check out ScriptMag.com! You’ll see interviews from plenty of screenwriters and directors, as well as articles about the character.