From the Editor
You have to work to get there...
By Lazette Gifford
I've been busy the last few months. I've
turned in a couple final manuscript drafts to publishers, edited Vision,
worked on the some material for Dragon Tooth Fantasy Books, made much needed
changes in Forward Motion, and even managed some writing.
I'm rewriting an older novel titled
Vita's Vengeance and it's proving interesting because, quite honestly,
the version I'm working from -- which is already a draft or two from the
original -- is so badly written. I was lazy. I could write better by the
time I did the last rewrite, but I wasn't willing to work hard. And that's
why I have to rewrite it again.
I see a lot of lazy writers these days.
There are far too many people who choose to write the way they do because
it's easy, and they don't want to have to work hard. And that's fine, if
you are only interested in writing for a few friends. They'll be forgiving.
This isn't an easy business. If you want
to be successful, then you have to work hard at it.
That means no easy answers, and no 'because
I don't want to' attitudes. Some of you would be amazed at what I get in
slush pile material during the year, and DTF is just a minor little
publisher. I read notes from other publishers -- I'm on a list of
publishers only, small press and ebook people -- besides hearing various
people at conventions. It's the same everywhere. People continue to make
the same basic mistakes in formatting and turn over just plain bad writing,
and expect it to be published. It's normal. It's what we see the most in
In this case, you don't want to be normal.
You want to stand out from the crowd, and to do that you have to learn to
write well. Sure, you can break rules -- but only if you do so wisely.
Doing it just because 'I don't want to learn rules' is not going to get you
Don't go for the easy answers. Look at
everything you write, and learn from the sites that are willing to give you
real information that pushes you to try harder and to do it right. It
doesn't matter if you are a brand-new writer or one who has been around for
years and not been published. In fact, if you are a brand-new writer, you
have a much better chance if you start taking the work seriously from the
There are so many simple little things that
you can do that will help you. First, read your material aloud in the final
edit. If you get stuck and stumble over lines, look at how you can make
those words flow better.
One of the most common problems I see is
the overuse of was in writing. Let me give you an example -- and
this isn't even an uncommon one. At DTF I had a 297 page manuscript, and
from the start I could see that was would be a problem. I had Word
do a quick check. In 297 pages the person had used was (just was
-- passive or not), 2437 times. That equals about once every 25 words, and
almost ten times per page.
It didn't matter how good the plot might
be, or what wonderful characters wandered through the pages -- the words
were boring, dull and repetitious. The sentence structure hardly varied at
Also, people -- I know you hear this a lot,
but said is a very good word. Use it more often.
There's no excuse for not learning the
basics of writing these days. The knowledge of what publishers would like
to see, and guides to help writers refine their work, are everywhere on the
Internet. Of course you also have to be careful, and the best bet is to
check out as many different sites as you can and compare information. Look
for people who have at least some publication. Just because something is on
a site -- any site -- doesn't mean it's true. There may even be people who
perniciously post things to derail a new writer's career. On the Internet
everyone is an expert -- until proved otherwise.
Not everyone wants to work hard, and that's
fine as long as you accept that choice from the start. I spent years not
really caring, but I really think that's made it more difficult for me to
write better now. I have to unlearn so many bad things, and they creep into
my writing again if I'm not careful. I wish I had learned better from the
beginning. I wouldn't be working this hard now if I had known some of the
guidelines from the start.
But I am a clear example that anyone can
learn if they want to. No, I'm not 'perfect' yet. Of course, no one ever
is -- but I'm far better at writing than I was five years ago.
And I've stopped allowing myself to take
the easy answers.