Excuse me while I bang my head against the wall. Oh, wait, that saying's a cliché, something I need to work harder to avoid. But more on that in a minute.
In my last blog, I mentioned the list of revisions suggested in How to Write and Market your Mystery Novel. Those revisions total two pages, an easily doable prospect. Then I decided to read Don't Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerdon. The crux of the book? 24 CHAPTERS on mistakes authors make that direct their manuscripts straight to the slush pile. But before the author even talks about these mistakes, he explains a bit about the publishing world and why perfectly good authors with perfectly good manuscripts may never get that sought-after contract. Not exactly cheery stuff to bolster my enthusiasm for first finishing my book and then revising it.
But, I'm a glutton for punishment (oh, geez, another cliché), so I decided to skim through the book. And look! The first couple of chapters cover the pitfalls of prologues and flashbacks. Why, I don't even have a prologue in my book. Or a flashback. I can skip that entire section! This might not be so bad. The next couple of chapters also don't apply to my book. Four chapters down, twenty to go. I'll be done with this book in ten minutes!
That's when I kept reading and started to feel a bit uncomfortable. I could certainly improve in a few areas of the next chapters. Minor changes, but still, necessary changes. And then I got to the section that discusses the triteness of restaurant and bar scenes in books. Whenever two people need to have a meeting, it's always over drinks or lunch, giving the characters an easy activity to cover while they exchange information. The first guy sips his drink and says a few words. The next guy wipes his mouth with a napkin and responds. And on and on. I'm absolutely guilty of overusing the restaurant scenes. Now, in my defense, one of the subplots involves my character eating healthy food, plus part of her job is waiting tables. But, in addition to all that food talk, both times she's alone with her love interest, they're at a restaurant. Weak! So once I start my revisions, I have to completely redo both scenes.
Okay, so that one chapter in Don't Murder your Mystery will result in work on my part. Surely that was a fluke. But no! Next he talked about introducing new characters and overusing gestures. Pretty soon, I had to get out a tablet and take notes on words to search for, scenes to redo, and character problems to fix. And let's not forget the use of clichés, a huge no-no, and one I'm guilty of all the time (see the first sentence of this blog). As I was working on my book this morning, I felt like every other sentence I typed was a cliché. And once you start thinking about not writing clichés, that's all you can write.
Just when I think I'm getting a handle on this whole writing business, I discover that I'm still making all types of amateur mistakes. My characters nod too much, they're too agreeable, their descriptions are lacking. At least I read the book before I finished my first draft. Now I can keep the list tucked in the back of my head (God, is that another cliche? I don't even know anymore!) as a constant reminder to revise everything. And never get too comfy.