Girls Write Out
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
This is the cover of my first book. It was my "grieving" book for my brother Randy who died in a freak lightning accident. That incident propelled me into writing.

As first books go, it wasn't too bad. At least that's what I thought. But my brother Rick found the original printout of that first book and gave it to me this past weekend. Ahem, this was the original. The one before any editing. The one before I even got close to being published. It is terrible! Horrible, awful, putrid. You think I'm overreacting but I'm not. I skimmed through that puppy and thought if this author (me) was able to grow enough to write something publishable, then anyone can build on their craft. :)

So in honor of that terrible first book, I'm going to give you a list of what NOT to do in a novel. I did every one of these things in that first book. Oh the horror! LOL

1. Backstory should not make up the entire first three chapters. What brings a character to the place we find them can be fascinating, but it's better hinted at rather than spelled out at first. It's better to intrigue the reader by tiny references to something that has gone before.

2. Pages and pages of introspection and no dialogue can scare your reader. When he/she flips through the pages, there needs to be white space. As in dialogue. A book with no dialogue is slooow reading!

3. Don't make the book autobiographical. While you may think your situation is spellbinding, chances are it's just plain boring. :)

4. Don't take up pages and pages of action that goes nowhere. Every scene needs to have a reason to be there.

5. Don't change points of view in the middle of a scene. It is disorienting for the reader and it keeps him/her from identifying with your character.

6. Tell the story in as few points of view as possible. Multiple points of view can make for a richer story but the butcher doesn't need his own point of view to tell us that the character has brown hair. LOL

And yes, I did all those things in this first draft that my brother uncovered. It's at least twenty years old, and while I wanted to think it was a historic find, I'd be embarrassed to let anyone else read it! It's that bad. I shudder to think I subjected my poor brother to it! LOL

Have you ever done any of these things? And do you have some advice for aspiring writers?


Colleen Coble  
posted at 6:36 AM  
  Comments (16)
Delicious Delicious
At 12:19 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

I still liked that book. So phhht. You broke rules. We know better, we do better, but you still had the talent even without the knowledge.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...

There's no fear of me ever writing something autobiographical. I'm so boring I even bore myself.

Several years ago, I tried writing a book. It was the first manuscript that made it past the 50,000 word mark. It was a fantasy about two brothers, one was good and the other was evil. But the book was terrible. Mercifully, my hard drive crashed at about the 65,000 word mark.

At 8:48 AM, Blogger Barb said...

I don't like it when the author keeps hinting, and hinting, and hinting about something in the backstory and waits until toward the end of the book before it's revealed.

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

You never read this version, Kris. Oh my, it was horrible. LOL

Timothy, that's what happened to this old, old version. It was lost on an old computer. WAY old computer. Probably a Commodore 64. LOL

Barb, I don't like that either. But that's not what I'm talking about. You drop back story in via very small dollops. Not big pages worth like I did. LOL

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

I think I did. I had a copy of that one and I didn't notice it being terrible. Maybe I would now. Sometimes learning things isn't all that helpful. LOL

Timothy, that's so sad about your hard drive at that point. Hopefully, you learned about backing up after that. LOL

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

It was way before I knew you, K. This one doesn't even have Sarah thinking Rand is dead. It is OLD. And terrible. LOL

At 10:13 AM, Blogger LadyRed said...

The only bit of advice I can give to aspiring authors is DON'T GIVE UP! Even if you only go so far as to get the words out and never do anything with it. The accomplishment comes from realizing the story, not what happens with it when you are done. If you are writing ONLY to get published, then you are not being true to yourself or the story. I have one that I have been writing off and on for years and something always takes me away from it but the story is still there in my mind, waiting to be put in writing. Even if I get it written and my friends and family think its great, if it never reaches publication or sales, I will feel accomplished because I saw it through to completion!

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...


Yeah, these days, I'm much more religious about backing up my WIP. When I reach a point where I would really hate to redo my work, I burn everything onto a CD. I also have a USB drive for backups. And I carry my WIP with me on a thumb drive, just in case the house burns down.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

Still, that was a painful lesson! Ouch.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Jaime Wright said...

Ok Colleen - cough it up. We want to read the horrible 1st draft ;)

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

Jaime, we should burn it! LOL

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Okay, these posts are making me laugh. Thank you for that. And Timothy, I never knew you had it in you! You're a natural comedian!! How hilarious!

Colleen, I've done, and still do, some of those things you're telling me not to. Maybe that's why I'm not a bestseller yet? Or maybe never will be? I know something isn't working with my writing to find a larger audience, but WHAT?

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

You're a brave woman, C! I'm too afraid to read my first book again.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger jel said...

I thought this book was a good read . MHO!!!

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Sandie said...

All good advice. I've got dozens of books in my computer. I don't think I dare go back and read any of them. LOL

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Lynette Sowell said...

"Avoid the plague," I say. It's amazing how (oh wait, people tend to say that a lot) saying things the same way over and over creep into writing. Make it interesting, but not florid. :) That's my half-penny of advice.

But, Colleen, isn't it GREAT to see how much you've learned? I have my first "romance" I wrote on a typewriter. It makes me squirm at how bad it is... LOL. :)


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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