A strong editor can spot amateurish writing a mile away. Whether it’s a weak character, bogged-down plot or inconsistencies, they uncover our problem areas with an easy flourish of their red pen. Which raises the question: What are the most common writing mistakes that editors see?
I posed this question to Susan Barnes, a former editor with the publishing house Hachette who has worked with me on five novels and who is both the toughest and best critic I’ve ever known. Susan joined me on First Draft Friday, and we chatted live – discussing this very question.
Susan shared her most commonly spotted mistakes, which included:
Telling, not showing
It’s one of the oldest rules in fiction – authors shouldn’t tell the reader how their character feels, they should show them. We discuss this rule in detail, along with ways to spot telling, and when it’s OK to break this rule.
Info-dumping occurs when an author bogs down a scene with sharing too much information at once. This can tie into showing/telling and often causes the reader to lose interest or start to skim over the content. Susan talks about exposition, backstory and descriptions – all which can be high-risk for info-dumping.
Storytelling and rough drafts
We also answer and discuss live questions from the audience on point of view, writing memoirs and how to get through your first draft in one piece.
It’s a fast-moving half hour with lots of actionable tips and content. Click below to watch the full video clip or listen to it on the podcast.
Interested in connecting with Susan? Visit her website for more information.
Want to watch more great conversations about craft? We have over a dozen more videos in our First Draft Friday library.
Full transcript of my conversation with Susan Barnes
Alessandra: This is First Draft Friday. I am so excited to be here with editor Susan Burns, who is going to be talking to us all about writing mistakes to avoid in your novel. So we are going to kick this off; it’s a 30 minute live chat that’s brought to you by Authors AI. We have a revolutionary artificial intelligence editor, so I hope you visit us at authors.ai and join us for future First Draft Fridays. So we will jump right in. Susan, I’ll let you introduce yourself and tell the audience a little bit about yourself.
Susan: Yeah, so thank you so much for having me first and foremost; that’s super exciting. My name is Susan. I am a freelance fiction editor. My background is I worked at Hachette Book Group. I’ve worked on science fiction, fantasy commercial fiction. I worked with the lovely Alessandra and one of her books, actually, several of her books. And then, I made the decision to move back to my home roots of Chicago and went freelance and have never looked back ever since. I currently work on a wide variety of genres. I work on science fiction, fantasy romance, mystery, really anything that is going to really hit me where the fields are. I’m absolutely excited to read, so it’s exciting to be here.
Alessandra: And just so some background, I’ve worked on five books now, and Susan was one of my first traditional book editors. I’d hired freelance editors, and then I had a traditional editor with Harlequin and then I came over to Hachette for trilogy. And I always tell you this, and I will say it to Susan’s face. Susan is one of the best editors I’ve ever worked with, if not the best editor I’ve ever worked with. And she is tough, man. She has made me so much of a better writer from everything that she has taught me. So, I’m really excited to have her on today and to talk about some things that she sees when she’s looking at a manuscript script and things that we should watch out for from an author standpoint. We will be taking questions and comments, so if you’re watching us live on YouTube or Facebook pop in the chat and we’ll be answering questions as we go. I already see the Author Fairy saying hi. So, let’s dive right in Susan. What is your first writing mistake or things that you look out for in another?
Susan: Yeah, so everybody’s a little bit different. I mean, you know, everybody has different writing experience, different backgrounds, but if I had to choose, I would say the biggest thing that you’re going to see, whether you’ve written 50 novels or 50% of a novel, if you send it to an editor, you’re probably going to hear “show, don’t tell”. You’re going to agree with me on that. So, show don’t tell is pretty common and it’s going to happen no matter how much you’ve written, and so it’s really easy. It’s something to keep an eye out for. So, what I mean for those of you that may not know that term; show don’t tell is when you are telling the reader something, a fact, versus being able to invite them into the story and show it to them. If your characters are having a fight or if they’re in the midst of some sort of interaction, and the easiest example of show don’t tell is saying, you know, Susan is angry… Susan was angry, you’re telling the reader, hey, she’s angry, which is not necessarily always a bad thing. But when you’re in a high tense moment and you really want to invite the reader in and have them feel that moment with your character, it’s better to show that.
So instead of saying, you know, Susan was angry, you could say her, “her cheeks were flushed and her fists were clenched, and there was a tick in her job.” There’s so many different ways that you can show that. So, you know, looking through your novel for declarative statements is a really easy way to do that. You know, seeing where you might be saying, “Hey, you know, she really felt this here”. You can sort of see different ways to invite the reader in.
Alessandra: Is it really important, especially if it’s a big emotional moment because I know we can do some telling right. Or else the book is like 400,000 words wrong.
Alessandra: So is this role especially important in important scenes I guess, especially where emotions are high, that’s when it’s really key that we make sure that we’re showing as much as we can versus telling.
Susan: A hundred percent; you are entirely correct. Writing is all about balance. I’m sure all of you have sort of found this. It’s a little bit of a give and take. There are times when you can tell. If it’s a small detail, like, you know, Susan ran down the street or something like that, where you’re getting to the more important information, definitely, tell the reader, keep them going, keep them moving. You want to get them to the good stuff. But if it is that high tense moment, they’re in the middle of an ethics battle or a huge fight scene or something like that; you want the reader to get chills. You want them there with you. You want them to experience the emotion, so showing that portion is what’s really important. But you know, it’s not just emotions either. It’s also about the context of the novel.
And so I feel like when talking about show versus tell people, always sort of give the emotional example. It’s easy, but there’s another way to look at this as well, which is, you know, when you were talking about scene and setting and everything like that, you know, being able to craft the scene so that you can show the reader. Or I walked into a house it’s really clean in here; that’s telling them that. Versus being able to show, Oh my gosh, I was nervous because my footprints were showing behind me and there’s not a speck of dust anywhere. And being able to show them, Oh my gosh, like this place is spic and span. Now, again, like Alessandra mentioned, you don’t want to do that for everything; it would take you three books to show all that. But if obviously it’s a haunted house that is the main point of your novel and it’s weirdly clean, that’s probably something you want to show your readers because you want them to be go, “That’s really weird and kind of creepy and maybe a serial killer who’s hiding blood lives here because they need to clean all that stuff up.” So, you know, that’s sort of the balance between that.
Alessandra: That makes perfect sense. So if someone’s writing, does this vary from genre to genre, like literary fiction is a lot more showing where maybe like a cozy mystery… I’m not meaning to… I just interviewed some cozy mystery authors, so we were talking about how their books are shorter and things like that. You can do more telling, or again, it’s just a balance and your editor will help guide you through that?
Susan: It is definitely different genre to genre, so obviously, more literary novel spends more time on the feel of even the more minute details. And you as an author will be able to sort of get the feel for this by reading well within the genre that you want to write. I mean, the more you can read what you’re trying to write the better; because you’re going to get the feel for how it’s supposed to flow and what it’s supposed to feel like. I mean, it’s always going to be a balance. There’s not a huge spectrum between the different genres. There is definitely a gradient of, you know, literary spends more time on the details. It’s about the writing and the gorgeous pros and being able to take you on that adventure. If you’re writing a romance or a science fiction novel, you know, sitting under the tree is just is just sitting under the tree waiting for the main character to get there, so there is a little bit of a balance there.
Alessandra: Makes perfect sense. All right, I love that, so show, don’t tell.
Susan: So, we sort of touched on this with show, don’t tell, I think the second probably biggest thing that you’ll hear about as a new or an existing author is info dumping, is telling your reader too much at once. It’s the temptation; it’s so tempting because you, as the author, you know everything. You know everything about your characters, you know what they had for breakfast this morning, you know what their favorite color is, everything like that. And when you get so far into a novel; why wouldn’t they want to know all these amazing details? Look at my character; they’re fabulous. So, being able to take a look of objectively at each scene at each chapter and see, okay, what do my readers need to know ‘A’ and what do they need to know now? And those are two very different questions. And the biggest thing that I tell my authors is when you’re watching… when you’re going through your novel, you know, take a look at what backstory you’re giving.
I’ve actually heard the recommendation highlight it, whether you’re printing it out or on the computer. However, fancy you get, highlight it and see if you’re highlighting and it’s coming out in big paragraphs; you’re probably giving too much. And take a look at that and ask yourself those two questions. What do they need to know? And what do they need to know right now? Because you know, maybe the detail that they had eggs for breakfast isn’t necessarily important in this scene, but maybe in a later scene she’ll actually decided to murder her husband over eggs for breakfast. I mean, that’s kind of a cool detail. You want that, right? So, you know, give and take right there, being able to decide what they need to know when they need to know it and really spreading it out throughout your novel. And this, I really want to highlight the biggest thing for this; do not try to figure this out while you’re writing. Don’t do it.
Alessandra: You can add a note to your doc and you can figure it out later.
Susan: Yup, that’s exactly right because you’re always going to shift things. Even if you were the most plotting plotter person on the planet; that’s a lot of PS I’ll tell you right there. Things are going to change as you move your way through. I mean, you know things change massively halfway through the novel. So instead of really getting yourself caught up in the details, get to that, the end. Get to the end of your story, be able to say I finished a book; that is a huge accomplishment no matter what. And then when you’re going back, then take a look, “All right, well, do I need to know that she was intending to murder her husband now? Or do I need to know two thirds from now and let it be a little bit more of a surprise?” You know, there’s different ways to sort of have that come out and it’s a fun puzzle, at least for me, it’s a fun puzzle.
Alessandra: So two quick questions. So one, this has come up… actually, I think it’s come upon First Draft Fridays before, but I know it’s come up in other conversations I’ve had with authors. So many of us, me included, don’t really know what exposition is. We think it’s backstory, but we’re not sure, so can you give us an intelligent explanation of what exposition is?
Susan: It depends on in what context you’re talking about and who you’re talking to. In general, I would say exposition is narrative. So when you’re looking at a book and you’re looking at a page in a scene, where you are seeing the description of the scene, where you’re seeing the description of what they’re doing, everything like that, that’s sort of the exposition of moving through the novel. And then you get to the dialogue and sort of the interaction and things like that, so that’s sort of how I would define it. I know other people would define it differently. I mean, that’s sort of a…
Alessandra: It’s not necessarily backstory. It’s just something… it’s just information, whether it’s about the setting, whether it’s about the actions, whatever. Okay.
Susan: Correct. And I really think that’s an important thing to note because info dumping doesn’t have to be about backstory. You can in throw them in a present situation, where you, again, going back to the house scene, everything like that, you know, if you really want to take home the fact that it’s clean, you might describe it in eight different ways. “Wow, well, nothing’s out of place. The countertops are sparkling and look… the rugs are immaculate” and you’re going on and on and on and on and on and different details obviously and depending on how important this house is, it might be important, but it’s info dumping. You’re telling them all of this at once in probably three big paragraphs right in a row; you don’t want your readers to get bored. They’re going to put down your book. I mean, readers nowadays, especially are wanting to sink into the novel to feel it. It doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be fast paced, but it needs to move forward. It needs to be engaging. It needs to keep their attention. And if you’re just giving them sort of a rundown of information… info dumping to them, regardless of whether it’s backstory or just general exposition of the entire novel, you’re going to lose their attention.
Alessandra: And this is especially, I think the authors that are often guilty of this as those who have to do a lot of research. I can tell you if I learned everything there is to know about serial killers, I feel like I have to share everything I have learned. Like, I’m so proud of all of this new information that I have, and the reader doesn’t really care about any of that. Or they think that I’m telling them something that’s crucial to the novel, and so then they fixate on it and then they want to know why the end of the book I went on and on and on about Ted Bundy’s missing scarf or something, if that didn’t show up later in the book. And I think it’s probably the same with historical fiction. Like you do a ton of research into what life was like in 16th century, and you feel like you have to share that in every place or use all the jargon and things like that, and a lot of times, yeah, you lose the reader.
Susan: Yeah. And it’s something that you want to be careful on. It’s not necessarily historical either in using your serial killer description if you won’t mind if I go into a bit of an example that involves you. You were working on 6E, the girl in 6E, which by the way if you haven’t read it, go out and do so.
Alessandra: Fantastic book, Yeah.
Susan: Shameless plug for the both of us there, there you go. You did a lot of research into Cam Girls into being isolated, into being that way. And I just loved the details that we were able to sneak in, like the fact that she had to, you know, Amazon Prime order like tampons and stuff like because she didn’t go anywhere. She literally was afraid to leave her apartment. But, you want to make those details small and few and far in between. And that was a conversation I remember that we had because you wanted to balance the logic of who she was, why she did something against what she was doing. So, you know, she had to get all the camera equipment for her job. She had to be able to set all that up. She had the bed in the middle of her apartment because that was the biggest part of her life. You know, just balancing all of that within obviously, the other side of that, which is the actual plot of the book, which I won’t ruin for anybody, but it’s awesome if you’re interested.
Alessandra: Awesome. So we do have a question about deep point of view is that apply to what we’re talking about here? Or should we circle back to that question?
Susan: So yeah, it kind of merges between, you know, obviously background point of view and or excuse me, background info dumping and point of view. So, another common writing mistake is obviously accidentally slipping out of different points of view slipping in and out of them when you’re not intending to, depending on what point of view you’re writing in. So first person point of view, you’re speaking from one person. So obviously, what I can assume Kylie hope I’m pronouncing that correctly, Kylie’s talking about in deep point of view is that you are feeling and seeing everything only from that one source, which is very intimate and is awesome, but can also cause some issues. Because, if you’re writing a super complex novel; you only have the ability to show information from that one point of view. So a really interesting example of that is all of the Gillian Flynn and all of the unreliable narrators that came about, which is really interesting because you’re seeing that from their point of view. And as a reader, you naturally want to trust what you’re reading, what you’re seeing, who you’re seeing and you can’t.
And that was why that was sort of a revolutionary thing because no one had really done that on a commercial scale before. And so you really have to be careful what you’re showing. And I know personally, I had an author, she was writing a really cool urban fantasy novel, but the problem we had was the world was so big and she had so many details that doing it from a first-person point of view caused problems because then you just basically had people coming back and reporting to her because she…
Alessandra: She had to know about something going on over here.
Susan: She couldn’t be everywhere at once. So it was something we had to talk about whether or not to change to like third-person limited or something like that because it was kind of hilarious. Like, every few chapters, I got to come back and tell her that I found this out and it’s like, well, we already saw that, but it was kind of a hilarious issue.
Alessandra: What was the solution? Did you add more point of views?
Susan: No. So what we ended up doing was making her more involved in the plot.
Alessandra: Okay, so it made sense that she would know these things.
Susan: Right. So obviously, point of view is something to really think about before you start writing because it is a common writing mistake to get to that point and be like, “I don’t know how to fix this.” And it’s certainly something you can fix, but it is a lot of work to go back through to change your point of view, to add a character, to do things like that. So while you’re thinking of your next novel, plotting your next novel, anything like that; as much as possible, try to think about, how much am I going to need them to see because you’re limited when you’re writing from first-person point of view.
Alessandra: Absolutely. Yeah. And she said a lot of romance is being written in first person and that’s so true. I think that’s probably the dominant point of view, at least now. It used to be more third person like traditionally, right?
Susan: Yes, if you go back. I’m a huge Nora Roberts and I know she’s been around, I mean, she was probably first romance ever. And she’s a really interesting example because she does third-person omniscient. Like she’s pretty much everywhere as a narrator and it sort of shifts back and forth between the hero and the heroine sort of at will, which is not something we’re really used to as readers anymore. Now, it’s a lot of first person or if it is first person, it’s first person dual point of view, which is, no, I would say probably the most in demand thing right now for readers, whether it’s in one book or like a duet, you have one book with one point of view in one book with the next. I mean, those sell like hotcakes. So, you know, yeah, it’s really interesting to see that first person is so popular.
Alessandra: And I wrote a lot of my romance in first… Heroin was in first person and “The Hero” was in third person. And apparently, that was really weird, but I didn’t read romance. Like, I didn’t take your advice and read a lot of romance to know what was normal. So I always get these emails out of the blue it’s like, why did you do it like this? And I was like, I don’t know, that’s just how I thought. It was easier for me to write “The Hero” as third person than be inside his head. I think it was me cheating.
Susan: One thing to know about all this is that there really isn’t much that’s wrong. Like, you know, I’m giving you advice, I’m telling you how to avoid easy; common things that might trip a reader up, but if you’re doing it on purpose… I guess my point is, know the rules so that you know how to bend them. Obviously, a common full sentence or you can join two independent clauses together with an ‘and’ and a comma. But there are a lot of fiction writers that really break that rule quite a bit. I mean, they have no subject, there are no verbs in their sentence and it’s a style that you can tell they’ve deliberately chosen because it brings to the emotion or the voice.
Yeah, it’s really, you know, not to push too much on this, but to go back to “The Girl in 6E,” you did that a lot in 6E, she has a very unique voice. You weren’t necessarily writing all of that grammatically, correct. I’m sure you probably gave the editor a heart attack. But it felt unique, it felt like her, and that was more important than being technically correct. So, switching from first person to third person between different chapters; now, please, please don’t do it mid-chapter that would break my soul. But you know, making that deliberate choice between two different POVs, awesome, different. If you have a reason for doing it, if you know why you’re doing it, and you know a reader later down the line, your book sells and becomes a million bestseller internationally, and a reader comes up to you and is like, wow, you could answer that question, but I loved it. Or I thought it did this. It doesn’t matter if they like it as long as you know, hey, I did this.
Alessandra: Makes perfect sense. Okay.
Susan: But yeah, so in addition to all of that, I’m going to switch a little bit from talking about specific writing issues. And the biggest thing I want to say as far as writing mistakes in habit form is having too lofty of goals. So now I know we’re just coming off of NaNoWriMo, which is why I wanted to bring this up. The national novel writing month, we say NaNoWriMo so much, it comes sort of wrote… it’s writing 50K in a month and that is a phenomenal goal. And I think it really does people to finish their first novel because getting to the end is the biggest hurdle of anything like, forget info dumping, forget writing which POV, switching anything like that; just get to the end. You can fix all of that later. But, 50,000 words in a month for a lot of people is a lot.
I mean, a lot of people have jobs, they have kids, they have everything like that, and they come into this month thinking I want to do this. This is clearly the popular thing. This is how I can get my novel done. And then they get to end of November, and they’ve only written 10,000 words, 25,000 words, anything like that. The biggest thing that I want to say to that is that’s still awesome. Like, look at your life and how you can write how you want to write and make goals that are tailored to you. I mean, that’s the biggest thing. The biggest writing mistake for me that I think keeps people from finishing their novel from publishing their novel is they’re like, well, I can’t write 10,000 words in a day, so clearly I am not a writer. It’s like, no. Set your goal at a thousand words, 250 words, something that seems manageable and achievable. And then I guarantee you, once you’re like, I can write 250 words; once you sit down and actually write those words, you’re probably going to write 250 more and maybe a thousand more. And that’s the better way to move that through than setting such a lofty goal that you’re like, I could never meet that, and you just let it slide by, and before you know it, it’s NaNoWriMo 2021.
Alessandra: That’s so true, and we do have a great question from Kimberly. She’s joining us via YouTube. She says, she wrote her fourth draft, which cut 240,000 words to 180,000 words, and she’s also divided it into two books. Six beta readers told me I need more of everything…help.
Susan: Oh, that’s a great question, so I guess my first followup would be, I don’t know if we can do follow ups on this or not. What genre are you writing? You know, so 180,000 word romance is pretty lengthy, so I would definitely cut that in half, if not, even in thirds. And you know, romance readers are really used to reading, having to read serial… multiple novels to get to the end. As long as you tell the readers that there’s going to be a happily for now or continued in part two. You want to make sure you’re honest with them, otherwise they get pretty cranky. So yeah, definitely, I think you can certainly do that, you know, and then you wouldn’t necessarily even need to cut all of your 240,000 words extra if you’re going to charge.
Alessandra: That’s a lot, 60,000, wow.
Susan: Family saga, so yeah, so certainly, something like that that’s going to be more ethic; you can certainly have a longer length, but you still want it to be sort of close to within genre norms. So family saga, we’re talking more just commercial general fiction. I would say go to your local bookstore, wherever it is, Barnes and noble, what have you, and see, or the books that you’ve loved to read in that sort of area in that genre. See how long they are and see how that sort of transitions and how that works, so you can see maybe how would be best to divide that for your novel as well. Having a series is awesome. You are going to have more to give your readers, especially if you’ve already written it. Then as Alessandra knows, you could do three books in three months, you could do a book every two months.
I mean, you know, building readership like that, if you can handle the writing schedule or if you already have it written is a phenomenal idea because that’s the way to build readers to continuously engage them and say, you love this, I have another book coming out next month, join me in this and it’s going to be fabulous. That’s certainly something that I think will work to your favor. You just want to make sure you’re working it in the reader expectations for the most part that they’re going to want to see.
Alessandra: Kimberly, I would ask when they say they want more of everything, do they want more description? Do they feel like you’re rushing through the scenes or are they wanting more scenes, and are you rushing through like the progression of the novel and you need more scenes or do the scenes need to be flushed out more?
Susan: Yeah, it might be they need more background because a lot of times when people are asking for more, it means that you’re pushing your characters to get somewhere quickly, and they’re not understanding either why they’re getting there or how they’re getting there. So, it might be that you need to go back to the beginning and say, “Okay, I’m starting my characters here. How am I getting them sort of evenly paced from A to Z to make sense?” And it might mean like I said, adding some of those 240,000 words, but that’s not a bad thing if you’re willing to divide up the novel.
Alessandra: I was looking at word counts for “Fifty Shades of Grey” the other day randomly because that’s what authors do in our spare time, and I was amazed. I mean, I didn’t realize the books in the series were like 150,000 words some of them and but reading that you just dip right through there. I mean, I read on ebook, so on ebook, we don’t even really notice how long a book is. So yeah, and Kimberly said they want more about my characters; they have favorites, so that sounds like spinoff books to me.
Susan: Focus on who you love the most, who the main character is, sprinkle in those other characters and then have off shoot books and have them come out one right after the other… Man, oh, man.
Alessandra: Just collect all that money, yeah. Well, we are just about at time. Is there any last tips or tricks that you want to share before we sign off for the week?
Susan: Really, just keep writing keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t try to edit too much while you’re writing through. Get to the end; that is the biggest thing that you can do. And then, come find me or your best friend or some other editor or mentor to help you along the way. You’ve got tons of people in your corner.
Alessandra: Let me ask you another question. If I’m a new author or if I’m an existing author and I want to hire a developmental editor, so to clarify, and I should have done this in the very beginning. You are a developmental editor. Am I correct?
Susan: Yeah, that’s correct; that’s my main jam.
Alessandra: All right. So if someone wants to hire a developmental editor, when should they reach out? Should they reach out when they’re midway through their first drive, when they finished their first draft? At what point should they get on an editor’s calendar?
Susan: Yeah, that’s a great question. So it really depends on, you know, I think you said if it’s a new writer, so if it’s a new writer, I would probably wait until you have the book finished, just because as your first time, you’re not probably quite sure how long that’s going to take you. If you have written books before, and you’re like, I know I’m going to be done in a couple of months; feel free to reach out when you’re mid-novel. Editors book out pretty quickly, so if you have someone specific in mind, certainly reach out to them as soon as you can once you know relatively for sure when you’re going to get it to them. I will put a couple of caveats on that, but first and foremost is don’t just finish your novel and send it off to an editor.
Make sure you like take… even if it’s just like a day or week, whatever have you; let it sit, come back to it and read back through or something because you’re going to catch a lot. You’re like; thank goodness I saw that before I sent it to anybody. So certainly do that, you’re going to help both yourself and your editor. And the other thing I will say is a hundred percent of the time you’re reaching out to an editor, don’t ever, ever feel shy about asking for a sample edit, and it’ll be free, or it should be free. It may only be the first thousand words or a chapter or something like that. It’s not going to be huge, but finding the right editor is sort of like a weird marriage…
Alessandra: It’s totally like a weird marriage, yeah.
Susan: Because you want them to be able to see your vision and you shouldn’t feel like they’re telling you how to change your novel, but giving you just a new perspective. So, you’re seeing it in a different light. They may tell you some things that you want to change. They may tell you other things you’re like, no, I don’t want to do that at all. That’s okay. It’s really just to show you where they’re thinking, they’re obviously experts in sort of the genre, so, hey, this might be different. Maybe that’s a good thing, or maybe you want to change it, it’s a different point of view, and you want to find the person that you’re going to work well with, take that criticism well because there will be criticism, its coming, that’s our job, but it will be with love and joy, I swear.
Alessandra: I love that. And I think we can fit in one more question. We’re just going to have to be kind of brief with it, and it’s from Cheryl who’s also with YouTube, or watching from YouTube. And so, she’s writing the first draft of a fictional story inspired by her life and it’s very emotional for her. I keep thinking it’s going to be impossible to write, but I really want to do it. Do you have any advice?
Susan: Writing about yourself, man, oh, man, you are a braver person than I am because that never needs to see the light of day, but no, I think that’s phenomenal. Definitely keep going. The two biggest things for me that I would recommend for you is, take it in small chunks. It’s going to be emotional. There’s probably going to be things that come out that you’re going to need to work through, just personally, not even on the page. You want to make sure the page stays the story, you know, keeping moving through. For you, especially info dumping is going to be hard because you want to tell everything, everything was important to you. And it was, but may not necessarily be needed for the one plot line story of your life. I mean, you’re taking a snapshot of a broad scale of a thing.
So, you know, small chunks keeping going, set a regular writing schedule, and then the other thing is find either a writing coach or like a writing group on Facebook that can keep you accountable. And you can say, Hey, I’m having a hard day. This was a hard writing day for me. They can bolster you back up. They can say, “Hey, get back on your manuscript. I haven’t heard from you in two weeks. Where are you at?” So, I think that’s really going to be key for writing something so personal.
Alessandra: And my 2 cents on this Cheryl is because I’ve talked to a lot of authors that are writing memoirs and they’ll send me their outline. And their outline is like 14 pages long because they’re including every single event that has ever happened in their life. And if you can totally eliminate that second husband, you know what I mean? Like if he doesn’t have anything to do with the eventual plot, like see if you can chop out different areas and really focus on giving them a well-rounded look at your life without maybe sharing everything because they can get really long. And the other thing that you might want to consider is for me, with my first book, using a pen name, Alessandra is a pen name. It gave me so much freedom where I can really be honest with my characters and not worried about people judging me for when they read the book.
So you might want to think about just writing, saying, “Hey, I’m going to…” even if you don’t end up doing it, say, “Hey, I’m going to write this under a pseudonym so that I can just… I don’t care if they judge this character knowing that she is me,” but it can really allow you to just be honest and real with it. And did get a comment from Facebook, which I don’t think Cheryl, you can see it because you’re on YouTube. But Riz, I hope I didn’t mispronounce that said just gave off time to process, and that can be really healing. It can be a really healing process just going through the writing of the book.
All right, we are out of time so thank you guys so much for joining us today. If you’re interested in learning more about Susan checkout, susanbarnesediting.com I can vouch for her a thousand percent. I absolutely scream her praises from the rooftops. So Susan, thank you so much for joining us today.
Susan: Thank you so much for having me.
Alessandra: And if you don’t have time to wait for an editor, you want to really clean up and polish your manuscript before it gets sent to an editor, please visit authors.ai and check out Marlowe. She is our artificial intelligence, developmental editor. She’s really kind. She’s really nice, but she gives you some great feedback and you can get her feedback in just a couple of minutes. So check out authors.ai to explore Marlowe and check back with us. Subscribe if you’re watching online or listening to the podcast and we’ll see you at the next First Draft Friday, thank you guys.