The kind folks here at The Long and Short Reviews know one of my secrets: I am very well known in the science fiction and fantasy fields under my real name, Kristine Kathryn Rusch. One hundred years ago, give or take, I spent a decade editing books and short stories, and most folks in the sf/f field still remember that.
So they ask: What’s the most common mistake new writers make?
Let’s weed out the writers who aren’t serious, the ones who write only one short story or one novel and then never write anything else. Those folks used to mail that single item to publisher after publisher, wondering why no one saw the brilliance of it. Today, those folks publish it electronically and wonder why they’re not earning Amanda Hocking numbers on their book. Those folks aren’t really trying very hard. They want to get rich quick and not do any work.
But the folks who really want to be writers? The ones who practice and do their best? What’s the most common mistake they make?
Their work is boring. Mediocre. Mundane. Unoriginal. Beautifully crafted, maybe, with lovely sentences, but predictable and not very entertaining.
New writers forget that they’re storytellers, not writers. Who cares if a sentence is perfect? Care that a story entertains. A story should surprise, bring enjoyment, and be memorable. It shouldn’t be like everything else.
And honestly, what makes a story like everything else? Peer workshops. Bootstrapping with other people who haven’t published and don’t know anything except how to rip the voice out of someone’s work and to make it like everything else. As an editor, I could always tell when a story had been workshopped to death. As an occasional teacher, I see it and wean the writer from a workshop format by showing that writer how to trust her own instincts.
One of my writing professors said something that stuck with me all these years. He said, “There are seven plots. Shakespeare wrote them better than anyone else. If that scares you, leave this class now.”
What’s original about writers is the way they tell those seven plots, the voice they use, and the amount of themselves they bring to the work. A workshop weeds out voice (it’s uncomfortable to read in a workshop setting—like this parenthetical phrase is for some overly critical readers), it neutralizes surprise (no one would believe that plot element could happen!), and it makes everyone sound like everyone else.
So be exciting! Trust your own instincts! Write something no one else would write!
And enjoy yourself.
That’s the advice I give to my students (these days), the advice I used to give on the convention circuit when I was an editor, and the advice I take myself. If I hadn’t taken this advice, I never would have written any of my Kristine Grayson novels. Fantasy? With sweet romance? Fairy tales and Greek myths? A strange voice in a genre that doesn’t always like voice? I shouldn’t do it. Workshops would hate it.
Fortunately, real readers disagree. And I have a blast writing the Grayson books. I hope you enjoy reading them.
About the Author:Before turning to romance writing, award-winning author Kristine Grayson edited the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and ran Pulphouse Publishing (which won her a World Fantasy Award). She has won the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award and, under her real name, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, the prestigious Hugo award. She lives with her own Prince Charming, writer Dean Wesley Smith, in Portland, Oregon.
Kristine Grayson’s bestselling fairy tale romances bring the classic stories into the present day, where fairy tale characters must grapple with the complexities of modern life as well as their own destinies. Emma (Sleeping Beauty) fell into a magical coma that lasted for a thousand years when a boy she didn’t even liked kissed her. Now that Emma’s awake, she’s determined to be a normal girl…a normal girl who is deathly afraid of kissing. When she meets history professor Michael Found, Emma has to choose between her fear of kissing and her potential Prince Charming.