Clearly, I can't help myself. I just need to keep ranting. Here are a few more hints and tips about how to improve your writing. I think i'll just keep adding chapter on as more and more things occur to me :)
POINTS OF VIEW
- Don't keep switching to different points of view in each chapter. It's confusing.
- Also - don't write the same scene in different points of view unless there is something especially significant about them. It so rarely works that it's almost not worth doing.
- If you are one of those people who bases scenes around a particular song, or you just enjoy listening to music as you write, let your readers know what the songs are. It adds to the mood of the chapter, and it is a good way to discover new music as well. I discovered a lot of my favourite music by chance like this. Having said that, don't have 3 pages of song lyrics. Your readers will skip over them. Post the name of the song, and the musician; or just a link to a youtube video. Don't force it down the throat of the reader.
- I also like to use it as a way of giving local musicians a bit of a boost. There are a lot of buskers near where I live, who are fabulous musicians. I love buying thier CDs to listen to because you get that whole feeling of a band being your little secret for awhile, and when I use their music in my fanfiction, it gives them a little free promo as well. Win-win situation!
THE FIRST DRAFT OF EVERYTHING IS SHIT - Ernest Hemmingway
Revise, re-read, scratch out entire pages. Re-start chapters. Do whatever it takes.
Have you ever written an assignment at 2am, printed it off without proof-reading because you are just too tired; and submitted it to your teacher. The teacher marks it and hands it back covered in red pen.
You read over your assignment now that you've got it back from the teacher, and realise exactly where you messed up, wondering why you didn't pick it up as you were writing it. Yep, same deal when it comes to writing anything.
A better course of action would be to write a first draft. Go to bed, and get a good night's sleep. When you wake up, read it again and correct any mistakes. Add in more description, take away some description. Prune away the unnecessary things, and add in what you missed. Don't be afraid to do this as many times as you need to. That is, go to bed, THEN revise your work with fresh and clear thought processes.
After that, you need to read your work aloud. Give it to someone else to proof-read.
Go back to bed.
Then read over what the other person has said about it. Revise your work again.
Then you have permission to publish; but only if you are truly happy with the finished product. If you get into the habit of doing this, chances are you will end up sleeping through quite a lot of the writing process.
Yes, it is time consuming. But let's do an experiment. Go back to the very first thing you ever remember writing. Does it make you cringe? Are there things you want to change? I can bet you any amount of money that you do. As a person you have learned and experienced a lot since then, even if you feel like you haven't achieved much. Use this new knowledge to enhance your writing.
Although I already had a thing dedicated to this, I realise that I forgot to mention the fact that different countries spell certain words differently. There are the obvious differences e.g. Mom vs. Mum.
Neither spelling if more correct than the other, but it would do readers and writers well to remember that these differences exist in the most unexpected ways: oestrogen vs. estrogen, oesophagus vs. esophagus etc. (Sorry that most of my examples have to do with the human body, it's just where I noticed most of the differences)
It is also worthwhile remembering the different names we use for things. An unexpected one for me was adrenaline and epinephrine. They are the same hormone, but it just has a different name in different countries.
When picking which spelling to go with, it is quite natural to spell a word the way in which you learned it at school. There is nothing wrong with doing this; however, I think it adds a little something to a story if you write in the spelling that applies to the character.
I recently read a novel that was written in first person, but had two points of view. One of the characters was from England, and the other was from America. I found it really interesting that the author chose to change the spelling of words depending on which point of view it was i.e. the English character said 'Mum' in her point of view, whilst the American character said 'Mom'. Surprisingly it was not distracting in any way, and it took me about half the book to pick it up, but I still really liked that the author went to the trouble of doing that. It added another dimension to the detail in the novel.
Don't let the title give away the entire plot.
THE FAULTS IN OUR WRITING
Don't tell the reader about all of your faults in the author's notes, or summary. It draws attention to them, and gets them noticed. This (see examples below), is not acceptable.
"Competition to see who can make up the best title"
"I'm shit at summaries, so yeah, basically Riley is this super hot cheerleader who falls in love with Brad, but what she doesn't know is that her geeky best-friend Michael loves her too. Who will she end up fallling for?"
I think I'm terrible at summaries, but at least I don't give away the entire plot before the reader has had a chance to read the first page of the book.
Here is when things get a bit serious. I'm talking about eating disorders, self-harm triggers, depression, anxiety, any kind of mental health issues.
I'm thankful that people put trigger warning in summaries, because it means that I can avoid the book at all costs. I don't say this because I personally find it triggering, although this is the case for a lot of people. I say it because there is a digustingly huge amount of fiction that glorifies mental illness.
The idea that suddenly someone wakes up with depression/mood disorder/anxiety/perceptual disorder is horrendous. The fact that they suddenly decided to get an eating disorder, and they become completely helpless is incorrect.
I can't even count the number of scenes I have read where a female protagonist locks herself in a bathroom and lacerates her wrists. The fact that many of these scenes are written by girls aged 12-18 is even more despairing.
Not every character who faces difficulties in their journey resorts to self-mutilation as a method of coping. For those of you who face the unfortunate circumstance of knowing these struggles in real life, I send my sympathy to you; but it is not the kind of thing that is written into fiction in such a cavalier fashion.
Aside from the people who are writing it, there are a couple of things you need to consider with any kind of writing that brings out strong emotions in a reader.
1. These kinds of situations are difficult to write well. You must have experienced that particular situation either through yourself, or a loved one to truly grasp what is involved. Taking a few pills and seeing a psychologist for two months does not sort your life out. It does not work that way in real life. Spending a few weeks in hospital after a suicide attempt is far more distressing than what fiction makes it out to be.
2. If you do write the situation well, then it just becomes distressing for the reader. If you want your readers to enjoy your work, and give you positive comments, then you can't have them needing to make another appointment with their psychiatrist after every chapter.
In real life, it does not happen like that. What happens when the safety of an individual is compromised varies as much as the law does. If the person wants to receive treatment, then that is dealt with far differently to a situation when a person does not want to receive treatment. Nobody just ends up in hospital, then walks out 2 weeks later unscathed with the love their life tagging along behind them promising to be the most supportive boyfriend ever. Those who do end up being back in hospital. Granted, that may be a generalisation on my part; but I have lost count of the number of times I have written those exact words into an admission form directly after a trigger of 'relationship breakdown'.
Your relationship with your partner is not your defining characteristic, and neither is your psychiatric issue. Be a strong individual and separate the different parts of your life; just as you separate your real life from that of your characters.
The most important thing I have to say out of all of this is that you shouldn't turn your fiction into a journal of your own life events that relate to mental health. It is not a healthy way to deal with your issues. Furthermore, your issues are just that -YOURS. It all comes under keeping your personal life private.
Sorry to finish on that heavy note, but it needs to be said. Mental Illness needs to be considered, and people do need to made aware of it; but there is a time and place for these kinds of things, and 9 times out of 10, fanfiction is neither the time nor the place.