Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Good Fiction Takes Time

This morning, I was reading C. Hope Clark's newsletter, FundsforWriters, and a quote in her editorial really stood out:


"The exceptional author is exceptional in their pursuit of being exceptional. They dissect grammar, voraciously read and analyze the gifted writer, and aim for the best story. They do not settle. They die attempting to be better, even if they've already sold ten million copies. They hold real passion, the kind of passion a lot of people claim but do not fully understand."


I find it interesting that I come across this quote at a time when I had recently returned three story collections I chose to read. I returned these ebooks because the writing was bad. The stories were supposed to be scary but they were not even scary. At all. I know that fear is a subjective feeling – what is scary to one person will not be scary to another – but the author's first story in one book included necrophilia and not only was I grossed out but I had to wonder if the author threw that into the story just for shock value. Does that make a story scary? Well, in this case, it just made the story icky.


But, yes, the writing in a lot of the stories I read (though I did not get very far) was just bad.


Here are the common mistakes I came across in reading them:


1. Too much telling, not enough showing. Remember the rule, "show, don't tell"? It's a rule in writing for a reason. Don't just tell me the story, show me the story. Get me into the character's head!


2. Cardboard characters. In some of the stories, the characters were like machines, doing the author's bidding. There were no feelings, thoughts or emotions.


3. Too much mood, not enough action. Yes, mood is extremely important in horror fiction, but 19 pages of establishing the mood without anyone saying anything, or doing anything, was a bit much. I lost interest.


This experience made me wonder one thing: Did these authors just write the stories then publish them? (They were all available as free reads in Kindle Unlimited.) Did the authors decide that their first drafts were so good that they didn’t need any crits or editing?


Sadly, it would appear that this seems to be a trend. Because everyone is able to publish their writing now, a lot of writers are putting their first drafts out there and calling it “done.” No editing needed. No revision needed. No crits needed, either (though they are bound to get a crit or two in the review sections!).


I have been thinking about this a lot because I am currently revising my own collection of horror stories. This is the second collection of horror stories I am working on. And one thing I have noticed while I work on revising these stories is this: Good fiction takes time. You can’t rush the writing, editing or revising of a story. You have to really sit down with it and work on it at a slower pace. You need to reread scenes and really think about your stories. Read everything you can about how to write fiction and talk with other writers about the craft. Write your stories, let them rest, then go back to them later and give them another read.


But, ultimately, give yourself some time to fix up your fiction. If you want your story to be good and get some good reviews for it, if you WANT readers to read your entire ebook when you publish through Kindle Unlimited, then please take the time to edit it, get feedback on it and revise it. You will be doing yourself a huge favor.


An even better thing to do is have another person read it. Have another person edit it. Hire a professional editor. Believe me, this is money well-spent.


Please do not settle for less when you write fiction. If you want to write good fiction, please give yourself some time to write it. Give yourself time to make your work your very best. It is definitely time well-spent.


I have definitely seen how taking time with fiction – the writing of it, revision and editing – can make our stories even better than that first draft. There are many first drafts of stories I have written that at first seemed awesome when I wrote them, but when I read them months or even years later, they are repulsive and definitely need work. It’s important to put in the time required for that work. I don’t rush the revision or editing of my fiction – I know I must go over the work carefully – and because I don’t try to rush through it, I know at the end that my story is much better than that first draft. At least, I sure hope it is!


A writer of fiction would stand to benefit by taking time with their fiction. Give it the work that it needs to be the best story, and your best writing, that it has the potential to be. Don’t write a story and publish it then and there. Take time with your fiction and if you show that you can write good quality work, you’ll attract more readers who will want to read your next book.


Labels: , , , , ,


  • At 11:35 PM , Blogger Lillie Ammann said...

    Excellent article, Dawn. I have been working with a first-time author to publish a memoir. Even though it's nonfiction, it reads like fiction. After all, a story is a story and meant to be entertaining, whether true or not.

    The author has worked on the book for several years, and my team and I have been editing and formatting and creating a cover for almost a year. We just got the proof copy, and I'm so pleased with the book. If we had rushed the process, it would not have turned out so well.

    Through the years, authors have said things like, "You're so lucky. You're an editor so you don't have to pay someone to edit your books." I let them know that I can't edit my own work. Of course, the author should spend the time to make the book the best you can make it. Then find someone to edit it. All of us have blind spots and things we don't know. No matter how much we self-edit, we won't catch a mistake that we don't know is a mistake. And we all need another perspective to help us see things in the story that don't work.

    Thank you for your advice here. Way too many self-publishing writers think exactly as you said--they've come to the end of the story so their work is done. In truth, they should be spending more time revising, editing, and improving the work. I took an online writing class nearly a quarter century ago. The teacher said the first draft should be pure green dreck! But you have to get that junk down on paper so you can have something to turn into a great manuscript.

  • At 8:11 AM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Thank you for your feedback, Lillie. And thank you for taking the time to read my post! I appreciate it. That's wonderful that you and your team were able to help an author put out a book you could all be proud of. Authoring books really is a team effort. I also do not trust myself to edit my own work before publication. If you can find the right editor at an affordable rate -- and they are definitely out there -- then it's worth it to make that investment. It's so important to have another pair of eyes read the work before it's published. Feedback on a story or book can help make it even better. A lot of writers out there need to let go of the idea that everything they write is perfect and doesn't need editing or a beta reader. Taking the time to improve what you have written shows that you are serious about being a good writer/author.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home