Hello there! Before I get started with today’s post, I just wanted to give you guy’s an update on what’s going to be happening around An Ordinary Pen in the next few months.
Life’s been crazy lately, but I’m (hopefully) going back to my posting schedule (Saturday) for the rest of December. I’m going to take a hiatus for most of January (I haven’t decided whether it will be just the first two weeks, or the whole month), and I’m thinking of using that time to do a remodel of the site. We’ll see how it goes.
I’ve also got exciting news! Some of you, if you’ve been around for about a year, would remember the series I did last year on “What God Has Taught Me This Year”. Last year, I had a bunch of amazing young women come and do guest posts on my blog, and this year, I have the super awesome Celeste and Christine, who will be guest posting for you, starting tomorrow! I’m really looking forward to sharing their words of wisdom and honesty with you 😀
Anyhow, today’s post is a bit of a mixture of playful poking at myself, and a serious look at writing mistakes I’ve made. I wanted to particularly look at some of the mistakes I made in the first draft of The Stars Fill Infinity, just because I’ve recently compiled all my beta feedback, and so I’m currently very aware of my failings 😛 I hope this serves as a reminder that none of us are perfect, and that learning from our failures (and other people’s failures too), is extremely helpful.
1 Lack of Technology
I hadn’t really thought about this until multiple betas pointed it out. For a futuristic world, my dystopian version of Australia really lacked even basic technology that we use constantly nowadays. This is something I’ve been trying to remedy as I edit, and I’ve come up with a few cool ways of integrating technology into the plot.
2. Too Little Worldbuilding
Part of this ties with the above mistake. There was hardly any worldbuilding in either the first or the second drafts, and again, it’s an issue I’ve been trying to correct as I wade through the third draft. It’s actually pretty exciting to do worldbuilding for this story, to help make the story come alive in an even more vibrant sort of way. I’m enjoying the challenge so far.
3. Weak Character Motivations
This is actually an interesting problem. Several of the characters, including, but not limited to, Sean Darcy, Kendall Streatfield, Jonas Oriah, Augustine Quillon and Maria Caderousse, had little to no motivations in the first draft (and even to an extent, in the second as well), and this wasn’t so much because I neglected to give them motivations, but more because the parallel characters in Les Mis often had vague motivations as well, so I swept the issue under the carpet.
Of course, Victor Hugo’s mistakes should not translate into my mistakes, so I’ve also been working on improving the motivations of these characters by giving them more solid goals and arcs.
4. Occasionally Preachy
Personally, I feel I did quite well in this regard. I tried to avoid those super cheesy, shallow conversations about God in this book, but yeah, I did occasionally get a bit preachy, even for my own tastes. The advice of one of my beta readers stands out the most to me, when dealing with this problem, “Show the characters living these sorts of lives, don’t tell us that they do” (paraphrasing).
5. Letter Writing
There’s a lot of letter writing for such a futuristically advanced society. I mean, who writes letters nowadays?
6.Lack of Description
The lack of the description stems, in many ways, from the lack of worldbuilding. Anyway, my descriptions were often vague, repetitive, or simply not there. Description has always been a point I struggle with, but hopefully I’ll be able to remedy this as I worldbuild and focus more on the aesthetic and general look of futuristic Australia.
7. Too Much Romance
If I was to write this again, I would leave out a lot of the romance that I had in the first draft. I would probably only leave the relationship between Sapphire and Sean (which is absolutely essential to the plot) and Sapphire and Quillon (which isn’t, but is so very cute). Chessy’s infatuation with Justice could easily be replaced with more of a hero-worship, and several other relationships could be left out.
However, as it is, I won’t change any of this, because it’s become part of the characters, the plot, and me as well. It’s definitely the most romance heavy book I’ve ever written, but it’s main theme is love–friendship and platonic love, the love between a father and daughter, sister love, and also romantic love, so I think to remove the romance would somehow lessen it.
Still, I kinda wish I hadn’t been so romantic in the first draft.
8. Vague Backstories
All of the characters had lengthy backstories plotted out in my planning notebooks, but many of these backstories never translated to the page, even though including snippets of them might have helped improve the lack of motivation I mentioned earlier.
So in my quest to flesh out motivations, I’ve been revising these characters and their backstories, in order to make them more lifelike and three dimensional.
9. Justice’s Illness
The climax of the novel basically ends with Justice in a coma and refused entrance into a hospital because of his status as a revolutionary. He is then taken to his rich grandfather’s house, where he is cared for by a private doctor.
This was not actually a plot point critiqued by my betas, but it is one that now strikes me as a massive mistake. I’ve been in hospitals quite a lot lately, and there’s no way Justice would be able to survive in a coma without the help of a plethora of machines, which would likely only be found in a hospital. Also, Justice’s grandfather has enough money to do almost anything he wants, and the officials at the hospital are described as being corrupt, so surely his grandfather would have enough money to bribe them into caring for his grandson?
And finally, it takes a massive amount of emotional, mental and physical fortitude to sit day in and day out by someone’s bedside. I honestly don’t think Chessy has that fortitude, despite how romantic a notion it may be.
10. The Ending That Wrapped Everything Up So Nicely
Originally, SFI was a standalone, but in the end, my dear friend (and first person to ever read the novel), thought that the ending was too farfetched (no one else has ever read the original epilogue. And yes, she was right). So she suggested I write a sequel to fill in the gap between the end of the last chapter (which is the same as it is now) and the epilogue (which is not). I did that, but I think, when I made it a trilogy, I wrapped everything up too neatly in the first draft and didn’t really change it in the second. Personally, I think it left readers just a tad too satisfied with how everything had played out, and I want them to be dying for the release date of my next book. 😛
I’ve been trying to change this by leaving a few things loose, in the anticipation of a sequel, not to answer every question, and to make sure Justice, Quillon and Chessy don’t have every answer either. This might take a little bit of work, but it should turn out well once I’ve done it.
So, there you have it! My top picks for mistakes I made when writing SFI. Hopefully, you’ve managed to avoid these sorts of things, but if you haven’t, I wouldn’t feel too bad about it 😛 What mistakes have you made? What are some areas in writing that you find difficult?