A Year’s Worth of Learning

May 28, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Posted in Bria, dialogue, editing, format, self-editing, Tina Ferraro, writing | 9 Comments

Somewhere — under the bed, behind a bookshelf, on a flash drive at the back of a drawer — you have the first draft of your first manuscript. Go pull it out.

No. Seriously. Go Pull It Out.

OK — If you’ve been following the Purple Hearts, you know I only began writing (again since college) a little over a year ago. Every time I turn around I feel as if I’m learning something new. I’m currently taking Margie Lawson’s ‘Deep EDITing’ course. Run as fast as you can to go take that class! Self-Editing is vital to success.

So, in an effort to see what I’ve learned, I pulled the first 10 pages of my first draft of my first manuscript. Pull yours out and let’s see, shall we?

1. OPENING: Amazingly enough, I started in the correct place – go me! Not as impressive, I opened in the wrong POV. I started in the POV of a secondary character watching the MC as a boy. It makes sense in a lot of ways BUT, it creates an incorrect view of who the story will be following and will easily confuse the reader.
2. POV: Since we’re talking POV, let’s look at that. Two Word: Headhopping (yes, I know that’s 1 word, but it’s a shout out to our girl Tina Ferraro!) I got dizzy following it. I’ve since learned how to pick out scene POV, stay consistent, and transition to the next one.
3. FORMATING: You’re supposed to format these in a specific way? Font? Margins? Spacing? WOW! What looked easy to read a year ago now looks like a train wreck of ink on paper. If you’re looking to see how to set up proper formatting, we did a post on it HERE.

4. TELLING: Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t as horrible as I expected. The opposite was actually true in many places – showing where I should have been telling. Sometimes, you need to just place a one line tell in there to keep the pace, flow and cadence of your story moving. I’ve learned a lot about how to balance that.
5. VAGUE: Just because something is clear to me, doesn’t mean it’s clear on the page. I’ve gotten a lot better at spotting those, at being a reader separate from myself as a writer when looking at my stuff.
6. PUNCTUATION: It’s true. Bad punctuation does distract from the story – no matter how good it is. Dialogue punctuation seems to be a specific problem the more people’s stuff I CP. HERE is a post on how to properly punctuate dialogue.
7. SENTENCE STRUCTURE: Often when trying to get the story on the page, my first attempt looks like this:

Brennid VERB. . . . He VERB. . . .DISCRIPTIVE SENTENCE. . .He VERB. . .She VERB. . .They VERB. . .

How boring! I had to move things around, shake them up and often make passive statements active. A great way to see your structure is to find replace your main characters’ names and “he” and “she” so they’re a bright, bold color. How many kick off a sentence? 


8. PASSIVE: Speaking of passive sentences – Not only does making your sentences active make the reader more involved and the pace quicker but it also forces a hard look at sentence structure.

So, that’s my first year Big Learnings. How about you? What’s changed in your writing this year.

Let us know so we can learn it too!



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  1. I’m still a beginner – and still working on this stuff!! Great post!

  2. I’m currently editing my first real MS and…wow. Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot in the year I’ve been actively writing.

    I am, however, still utterly lost on the ‘passive voice’ thing. 😡 (that’s my evil face)

  3. Thanks Ladies – I’m so excited to be able to see how far I’ve come — and imagine where I’ll be in another year’s progress!

    Remember, we’re closer than we were when we started 🙂

  4. Yes, ok. bludgeon me with #7 will ya. At least I know WHY I do it. I just need to recognize it and nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand.

    Yes, my real first attempt from back in college, which stay hidden deep under layers of folders to protect the eyes of the innocent, is full of these horrible atrocities too. Will it ever see the light of day? Who knows. The second attempt has a higher chance of seeing completion and polish.

    Great post, Bria!

  5. Cutting and Pasting today’s post I had a great fear – an almost overwhelming one. It paralyzed my little typing fingers as a cold sweat broke out. It was: That Kaige Would Think #7 Was Talking About Her — Yeah, we talked about it yesterday — No, it wasn’t about you. Yes, I do it often but not so much any more 🙂

  6. Hi! Since I got that lovely mention inside comment of headhopping, I thought I’d tell you that my first book–and no, you can’t see it, ack!–is crazy with headhopping. My writing improved dramatically when I went to single points of view per scene. And even more when I went to single point of view PERIOD, but that’s a talk for another time…

  7. Feel free to talk about anything here Tina – You always teach me amazing stuff when we hear from you!

    And, everyone else, definitely check out Tina’s latest book to catch the running gag — it’s funny and sweet.

  8. “It was: That Kaige Would Think #7 Was Talking About Her — Yeah, we talked about it yesterday — No, it wasn’t about you. Yes, I do it often but not so much any more.”

    Hehe. I knew it wasn’t about me specifically. That was just me beating myself up more about it. And I know you’re teasing me here again, but like I said, I know from whence it springs. I’m already much happier with where I am now than I was last August/Sept so we really only have one way to go… cheers!

  9. […] Until last weeks blog. […]

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