January 3, 2012

Are You a Lazy Writer?


Okay, I know you're now on a diet and exercising to shed those holiday pounds. So what about your mind? Have you exercised your mind lately? Have you stretched yourself as a writer or have you gotten lazy.

Recently, I received a rejection letter that not only said I was using the "same old" plot devices, but that my writing was repetitive. Hmmm...that was a new one. Yes, I admit I used the "same old" plot devices, mistaken identity, etc...but this publishing house is known for wanting the same ole same ole. I tried to write something they would want...I should have put a Cowboy instead of a doctor and they probably would have bought it.

But the repetitive part made me think about my writing. I also read a new author and her sentences jumped off the page at me and I immediately knew mine didn't do that. Hmmm...I contemplated, have I become a lazy writer? Am I just putting the words down on the page trying to reach the end?

I work very hard on plot, characterization, but what about sentence structure? Word choice? How much time is spent on making sure I get just the right nuance on the page?


So this year my focus is going to be on not being a lazy writer. I want to stretch that part of the brain that helps create sentences. I'm going to be looking for ways to learn how to think outside the box and become creative with not only my characters but also my sentence and word choice. My other goal is not to write to the market. I give up. I obviously don't know what they want anymore and I'm going to write what I love. Screw the market.

What will happen to this book that has now been rejected very thoroughly by the one house who would buy this story? Am I going to let it languish in the closet never to be seen again? Nope. In my opinion it's not a bad story and I'm tired of letting my hard work sit after being rejected. So coming very soon to Amazon you will find PAST MISTAKES. A story of mistaken identity and lost love. Maybe New York doesn't want it, but hopefully it will bring joy to e book readers. And yes, I am going through it one more time to look for the repetitive and make sure it doesn't have the appearance of a lazy writer.

Tell me, how much time do you spend when you write thinking about word choice, sentence structure and having those words jump off the page? Do you recognize good sentence structure in other writers, but not in yourself? Are you writing for the market? Stop that!

36 comments:

Cynthia D'Alba said...

Thought provoking. Yes, I try very hard to find new and creative ways to say the same thing. If I'm not careful however, I'll get analysis paralysis. I think the best is to just write it the story in the first draft and then look for those repetitive and overused phrases in the editing process.

Good luck with your indie publishing!

Pamela Stone said...

Hi Sylvia,

Write (and yes, used this spelling on purpose) there with you. I'm trying to write for a specific line only to get rejected. So maybe it is time to write what I love instead of trying to write to market.

Whatever I write thought, the hardest part is the rough draft. I don't worry about structure, word choice, etc. Just try to get the story down. Since plotting is not my strength, I plot it out with my CPs first and establish my bullets to guide me, but still, it's hard.

Then the real work begins. And I love this part. The plot is down and now I can focus on how I tell the story and the actual words.

First I start at the beginning and rework it, combine or eliminate similar scenes, etc. But the fun part is the rewrite and tightening. After I go through it beginning to end, I next go paragraph at a time from the bottom up and look at each sentence and make sure it's the best I can make it. I don't always have time for this final step, but it is amazing the difference it makes in the actual word choie.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

Phyllis said...

Ah, Sylvia, great post. You've got me thinking about my work now. Let us know if you discover any helpful hints!
Phyllis

Kathleen Baldwin said...

Hi Sylvia!

Great post.

I'm with you on "writing what you want." Life is too short and the market is too tough to waste time writing what we think a publisher will want.

One caveat though: changing markets can be super tough. But the payoff is being able to fall in love with your writing again.

You can do it!

About the other issue. I sometimes spend hours over a single sentence. And I'll rework a scene until I'm completely satisfied. But editing and wordsmithing are part of the fun for me. And it's how I grow as a writer.

We all have lazy tendencies. it's just different with different writers. Some don't waant to do the hard work of making sure the logic is there. Others... Well, it's a long list.

My laziness is in not actually getting down in there in the writing trench and writing. I'll let life pull me along and drift me away from my writing. So I appreciate your wake-up call.

I'll go write - right now!!
No more lazy.

Sasha Summers said...

SO true! Active writing, engaging and absorbing sentences, is challenging. My first draft isn't pretty. But it gets the story out and onto the paper. THEN I can go back and be brilliant - line by line.
And writing what you want is a must. I don't think you can really reach a reader if you're not inspired or invested in your own words!
Great post - thanks for getting the brain working! :)

Elizabeth Essex said...

Oh, Sylvia, together we would make one perfect writer. I spend hours and hours combing through my OED and thesaurus looking for a better word, and a fresher way to express my thoughts.

The best thing I've done for getting myself out of a writing rut is either a) take a Margie Lawson course on writing FRESH, or b) if you've already taken one, go over her handouts. Sometimes just a phrase or two will get my brain stretching out into new territory.

Speaking of which—back to the WIP. Only 14 days to go on this baby and I'm deep editing to make it fresh and eliminate all my repetitive words. Today is 'even' day. I've used that word about a hundred times more than I should. :)

Think fresh! Thanks for the great post.

mamabear said...

Wow Great post! I have never even submitted a MS to be rejected but as I was reading over my current WIP, I noticed that it needs help in the word choice and sentence structure. The most current part is much better than the beginning, so I need to go back and rework that. Yes, I am a lazy, procrastinating writer...
Thank you for sharing!

Vicki Batman said...

Hi, Sylvia: although I have pet phrases I use, I don't consider that repetitive writing.

I consider repetitive writing to be overuse of some words: there, that, just.

And thanks to LizLip and wordcounter.com, I insert my 5,000 words, get the counted results and get to work on revising. It does make me write fresher.

Good topic!

Sylvia said...

Hi Cynthia,
Love your cover by the way. Thanks and yes I think I suffer fro analysis paralysis also. Thanks for stopping by.

Sylvia said...

Hi Pam,
I'm right there with you on the market. I'm sure you know who rejected me and while I know she was right about the same old plot devices, it's the ones they are known for, so I'm going to write what I love. Happy new year to you!

Sylvia said...

Phyllis,
This is going to be a great year for us. I just feel it or maybe I'm still high on that thin air up in the rockies. If I learn anything knew, you know I'll share it. I'm going to be an indie publisher this year for sure.

Sylvia said...

Hi Kathleen,
One thing about rejections they can make you say hmmm or I go, yeah right you didn't read it. But I'm pretty certain she read it.

Hours over a single sentence...nope, I've never done that. I've spent a lot of time agonizing over a word choice. Especially when I can't find the one I want.

Sylvia said...

Kathleen,
Sorry, the boss came by...this is going to be a great year and I just know you're going to sell that YA.

Sylvia said...

Hi MamaBear,
Welcome to the club. I think I must be a lazy writer as well, but I'm working on changing that. I'm going to use that Program Ms. Vicki mentions. I have it, I've just never used it. Funny thing is I look for "to be", that, was and ing words. So I didn't think I was that bad. Good luck with your story and don't give up. Never surrender to the rejection letter.

Sylvia said...

Sasha,
Welcome! Congratulations on your sell. Sounds like you and I write a lot the same way. Down and dirty first draft and then I go back and try to make it brilliant. But she didn't think my baby was too brilliant. I must say though it was one of the best rejection letters I've received, if there is such a thing. But I'm not going to be a "repetitive writer" any more. I am not going to be a "repetitive writer" any more. Oops.

Sylvia said...

Liz,
It's so good to see you. I know you've been busy working on your deadline, so thanks for stopping by. One of my repetitive words is Well. I use it over and ovre in dialogue, so now I look for it. Also So. I really like that word for some reason to start out a sentence. Sometimes we need a slap on the hand to notice what we're doing and I got my slap right before Xmas.

Kelly L Lee said...

Fabulous post. As I slog through the rewrite of only my second novel, I'm going to keep your words in mind.

BTW - who was that new author you mention? I've got my favorite authors and finding new ones all the time, but like hearing about new fresh voices too.

Happy New Year!

Sylvia said...

Hi Vicki,
I forgot about that and I have the link to wordcounter.com. I'm going to go out there and use it. Right now I'm taking a class on Savvy Authors called EditaPalooza. I'm hoping that will give me some guidance as well. Plus someone else, I think the Queen of Grammar is offering a class on how to write exciting sentences. I'm going to take a look at that one as well.

Well, the job calls, but I'll be checking back in. Thanks for stopping by ladies. Love you girls.

chris keniston said...

well - I do have pet peaves- repetetive phrases is one of them.

I'be been told I use 'it' too often - : ) - so I have to make a concerted effort to not do that.

but I do search for just the right word - especially in similies because I write a lot with similies - she took to him like well- I can't say white on rice or a duck to water so I think and think until I come up with something that fits.

i suspect like the person born to teach, and the person born to heal, the person born to write probably struggles less with the perfect turn of phrase- but yeah- I've been known to wriet FILL IN THE BLANK - and move on till something comes to mind!! LOL.

and congrats on entering the indie pubbed e world -

Shelley Munro said...

Good post, Sylvia. I know exactly what you mean about words jumping off the page. I've been trying very hard to do this in my recent manuscripts and making everything fresh.

Have you taken one of Margie Lawson's online courses? She does excellent classes that really makes you think about your writing. Here's the link for her website http://www.margielawson.com/

Liz Lipperman said...

Sylvia, I so can relate. I believe one of the Plotting Princesses, (not mentioning any names, Chris!!) even accused me of lazy writing once as I use AS way too many times. I have several other "comfort" words, as I call them.

I have to admit that I use two books when I am editing and looking for another way to say something or to use a different action tag. My characters are always smiling!! So what if they're happy?? I can still hear my agent after she edited my first story --"Get some Wasp names in there and your character cry too much and drink too damn much coffee."

Anyway, these books are the Millennium Phrase book for Romance Writers (Rebecca Andrews) and the Romance Writers' Phrase Book (Jean Kent and Candace Shelton.) Even though I don't use the flowery phrases, it does give me great ideas on how to change my tags.

As for the indie adventure, go for it. As you know, my indie book came out in December and has already sold over 90 copies. Plus, I'm getting some great feedback from readers and one reviewer. I don't plan of hitting it big, but it is a way to get my stories that NY doesn't seen to be able to do anything with out there. (One editor said she loved the story but had no idea how to market it.)

Well, I do--and I did! And guess what--in this post, I used AS 3 times. Back to the drawing board.

Priya said...

Great post! I have to fight my lazy writer tendencies with each draft. I'm so glad you brought it out in the open!

Also, congrats on deciding to release eBook! I know you'll do wonderfully. Best of luck :)

Sylvia said...

Hi Kathy,
There are two. Lillian Hart and Liz Lipperman. Spoiler alert...Liz is a Plotting Princess.

Great that you could come by. I'm currently reading the first very rough draft and oh my goodness...what a treasure trove of weak verbs. Good luck with that second book. Happy New Year to you and may that second book be the one that catches an editors attention.

Sylvia said...

Hi Chris,
Thanks for the congratulations...we'll see how I do. You are a very funny lady and I really think you should be writing comedies. The way you use similies and such. I hadn't thought of writing in fill in the blank and move on. That's a great suggestion for the first draft.

Sylvia said...

Hi Shelley,
Yes, I love Margie Lawson and it's been a couple of years since I took her class. I need to reread the handouts and work on that. She's a great teacher.

Happy New Year!

Sylvia said...

Oh Liz,
You are so funny. Yes, As is one of my silly words that pops up all the time. I have both of those phrase books and haven't looked at them in forever. I may have to get them out again.

I've got to get on Amazon. I used Smashwords for my first ebook and it's still not out there, so I have to sit down and figure out how to get it out there. Did you have someone do this for you? Please share...I'm digitally challenged.

BTW...I read Liver Let Die this past week when I was on vacation...loved it. Very cute, but dang I would have liked your heroine to get with the hero...Next book?

Sylvia said...

Priya,
Great to see you here. I never thought of myself as a lazy writer, but that rejection just seemed to slap me up side the head. It was one of those ta-duh moments in life. And it wasn't a pretty one.

Well, the job calls again, so I better get back to it.

Liz Lipperman said...

Sylvia, I had help getting my story out there. I didn't go the Smashwords route since I've heard that they get pirated from there a lot. I went directly to Amazon and to pubit (B & N) and next I will go to Kobi (ereader) and Create Space for the print book. I joined a loop called Indie Romance Ink that has some great tips. You should join. For me it's just another great way to procrastinate!!

And thanks for the kind words about LIVER LET DIE. My editor feels the same way about Alex, so he will be returning and will get lucky--wink, wink!!

marybethlee said...

I admit I am a lazy writer. This was a great reminder that lazy won't cut it. Thanks Sylvia!

Kathy Ivan said...

Sylvia I am so totally a lazy writer. My first drafts are totally ugly babies. I have crutches that I lean on like "just" or "that". And I am also a repetitive writer. I tend to use the same location/area (i.e. that table anybody?) instead of moving the story around.

It's definitely a thought provoking topic, and good to see that I'm not the only one who tends to fall back into patterns when I'm writing.

I do try to make sure that the word choices I use are well thought out and try not to overuse the same words/phrases too often.

It's like trying to write outside your comfort zone. But we all need to do that sometimes in order to be a more effective writer. Thanks for the post. :-)

(See I used the word that at least 5 times in this brief message. Thank God for search and replace functions.)

Karen Cote said...

Sylvia...I feel your pain my friend! Yes...major analysis of my work going on while I'm trying to write. Too distracting, however, so I just have fun with it. For instance, if I'm writing from a killer's perspective, I grab that guy's/or gal's hat and slap it on my head. Strange what comes out by stepping into their shoes (yes I said the same thing but used different apparel). Just try to shake it up a bit and have fun. Great subject and I loved reading it and the answers. Sorry about the rejection, tons of empathy there as I've had a few too. LOL.

Goodness I love the Plotting Princesses. The support and fascinating topics here are simply amazing.

Sylvia said...

Mary Beth,
I think we need to start a 12 step program for lazy writers. There seems to be a lot of us. Obviously it didn't cut it for me. But I'm working on changing that laziness in me.

Sylvia said...

Hi Karen,
Thanks for the empathy. The first draft is so much fun when you can step into the characters shoes and just write. It's those darn second and third drafts where all the hard work comes in. Now stepping into a killer's shoes...ooohhhh that's interesting. I think I'd have to get angry and think about my ex or something.

Great to see you!

Karilyn Bentley said...

Great post! I don't write to the market and I try to make my sentences pop off the page. But sometimes it's hard to write like that and it's easier to just stick a sentence on the page. Then I have to go back and rewrite it and rewrite it, etc. I actually enjoy trying to get the best word possible in the sentence. However, I've found that what I think pops off the page, others disagree. To each their own, I suppose.

My laziness comes from not wanting to put my butt in the chair and write. I get distracted by pretty much every little thing. Thank you for the wake-up call! I'll work on being a less lazy writer!

Good luck with the indie publishing!

Caroline Clemmons said...

Sylvia, I love your writing and still have your western series in my keeper file. As you mentioned, I have been editing my WIP to use vivid verbs and eliminate clich├ęs. Also, I have found that Amazon Kindle buyers are receptive to my backlist and the new books I've published there. I'm sure your book will sell if you promote it. You can be on my blog anytime you wish.

Leanna Ellis said...

Great blog, Sylvia! When I wrote very fast, 4 books a year, I didn't have time to devote to each sentence. But I walked away from writing so fast and spent years growing my writing. Now I write a fast draft and spend the majority of my time on a book polishing and strengthening sentences. Blessings, Leanna