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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Are We Doing It Wrong?

How many times have you wondered, as a writer, if you're doing it wrong?
Ever watch Mr. Mom? Remember the part where he tries to do the drop off with the kids at school and the whole time the kids are in the back seat saying, "Daddy, you're doing it wrong." And he's like, "Don't tell me I'm doing it wrong. I know what I'm doing." Meanwhile, there are moms honking and shouting, I think one even flips him the bird. He gets a little further on, is approached by a woman under an umbrella (if my memory is accurate) who knocks on his window, introduces herself and  then says, "You're doing it wrong."
The nice thing about this scenario is that someone was there to tell him (besides his own kids, of course) that he was doing it wrong. She even told him the right way to do it.

Well, writing is an art form. There's no right or wrong way to do it. Right? Maybe. But there are some pitfalls to watch out for. Agent Kristen Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency posted a blog entitled, Culprit: Writing Mechanics. In this piece she tells us of her "Agent Reads The Slush Pile" workshop, where she basically pretends she's at the office, going over the opening two pages of a submission. During the actual workshop someone else reads it aloud, and she speaks up and tells them to "stop" at the point where she would not continue, and then tells them why.
She goes on to say that 99% of what she sees in these workshops is not ready for an agent to read. (Ouch!) When asked if her view was subjective, she allowed for that on some level, but said in these cases, the offenders were universal. She then listed the Top Ten Culprits. Want to know what they are? You're in the right place.

1. Telling instead of showing.
2. Including unnecessary back story.
3. Lose sentence structure that could easily be tightened
4. The use of passive sentence construction.
5. Awkward introduction of character appearance.
6. Awkward descriptions/overly flowery language to depict.
7. Starting the story in the wrong place.
8. Not quite nailing voice in the opening.
9. Dialog that didn’t quite work as hard as it should.
10. A lack of scene tension even if the opening was suppose to be dramatic.

This is one of those blog posts I will go back to time and time again. I hear the list of offenders rambling in my head as I review my work, asking myself one simple question: "Am I doing it wrong?"

Click here to read Kristen Nelson's full post on Culprits: Writing Mechanics. If you'd like to view her blog, go to
Have a favorite blog post you'd like to share? Drop us the link and share the wealth (of knowledge)!


  1. Oh, I always have a list that runs through my head as I write and edit...but most of the time I can't remember them all at the same time. Thanks for a reminder! :)

  2. Great list of things to keep in mind! Thanks for that. :)

  3. So glad to see you blogging! Love it! Love you!

  4. I heart Kristen Nelson's blog. It's so awesome. Great information for any part of anyone's writing career. Thanks for posting this! :D

  5. I hadn't seen that post before. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks for those! I've been trying to think of what needs to be different on my first page(s) ever since that Stimulating the Slush Pile panel at Storymakers. It's nice to have a list of all the things they look for!

  7. Wow, I'm going to bookmark that list. Thank you for sharing! I'm in a similar situation as you, it looks like. I just finished my first novel and am seeking representation. It's good to know I'm not alone!
    I just started blogging about my experiences and would love to share ideas with you. Feel free to check it out at Thanks again!

  8. All good points! I love Kristen's blog. She so candid and straight forward. Writing is certainly a fake it till you make it profession, though. And never believe you are doing it wrong until it's time to edit. I drive myself nuts if I try to "do it right" on the first draft.

    Great to "meet" you, Kimberly!

  9. Thank you all for the comments - I would eat them up if I could - I truly love them all!
    Jackee - I couldn't agree more about waiting for the edit to sweat that stuff. Those thoughts don't really belong in the creative process, do they? :)

  10. Goodness, there are a lot of typos in my comment above. Can you tell I'm sleepy? Heehee

  11. Hi, writegirl! This is raven1 from QT. Did you leave a comment on my blog? For some reason, it's showing up in my email but not in my comment section. Weird. Anyway, thanks so much for looking me up! This is a great post. These checkpoints are important for all of us to remember. I think I might copy and paste them into a docment, in fact.

    And thanks for you compliments about my trailer! I had a blast making it. :)

  12. Raven1, I mean, Anita! Hi! It's so fun to "see" you outside of QT! Thanks for the follow! Can't wait to hear more about the progress on your novel, Splintered! I'll be sure to give you a nice shout out! Maybe you'll let me do an interview? :)

  13. LOVE that movie AND worry I'm doing it wrong all the time:) I will have to check this post out. THanks!

  14. Thanks for sharing this! For me, I have to wait until after I've written the whole thing down first before I tackle those things on her list.

  15. Thanks for the list. It is always good to have new things to consider or reconsider.

  16. Kimberly,

    I did go over to check out Nelson's post. Writing is an uphill journey toward a craft that we never really master.

  17. Thank you all for the wonderful comments!