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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Writers and the Biggest Problem

On the ride home from work the other day, someone on the van pool asked me about writing and I talked about the contest judging I did after I sold my first book. It was a way to pay it forward since I'd entered many contests and even sold Ravyn's Flight because of a writing contest. One of the guys asked, "What's the biggest problem you saw in the entries?"

It's been years now since I've judged a contest, but I knew the answer immediately. A great big info dump at the beginning of the story.

So many times the whole entry would be backstory on either the hero, the heroine, or both of them. While this is information that it's good for an author to have about their characters, it needs to be treated like an ice berg--the reader only needs to see about 10% of what the author knows.

Along with the info dump writers, there were a number of writers who must have heard don't spew backstory at the beginning of a book and start with action.

The problem that cropped up here was that a few took this too literally and gave no build up, no chance to get to know and care about the characters before they were in danger and things were happening. Without a connection to the hero or heroine, it was really hard to care what was going on.

It was interesting to think about this after so many years, but openings do seem to give a lot of authors a hard time. I'll include myself in that category since about 50% of the time I've had to redo my first scene, too. Figuring out how and where to start a story sometimes seems to take me forever and sometimes I start more than once, but when it's right, I can feel it.