Thursday, 12 November 2009

Tired Ideas: Fresh Manuscripts

I read recently too many manuscripts submitted by novice writers begin with the protagonist waking up in the morning. (I found the comment on one of the many blogs I follow, most likely an observation made by an agent or publisher; I forget who, so whoever you are please accept my apologies for not referencing you.)

My immediate thought was 'Oh-oh'.

The first time my leading character is introduced, he is waking up. However, I think - I hope - I have avoided being too clumsy as the passages that precede his appearance establish why it is necessary that we find him in bed.

Besides, the story follows events over a period of just eight days during which his life becomes increasingly bizarre. Hence, the working title, Thursday To Thursday. And if I explained here the real reason why I have to have him wake on the first morning, I would spoil the whole raison d'être of the story.

(Am I becoming too defensive - probably. Would it prove disastrous if I was asked to revise the beginning - probably not.)

So let's get to the point: what other clichés in writing are there that the  novice is guilty of? I am not talking about bad writing per se, but hackneyed plot development, characters, structure, et cetera. In other words, what are the common themes seen time and time again in the slush pile?

I am being more than a little cheeky because I am hoping others, especially publishing professionals, will develop this post into something interesting with their replies.

PS I have just spent an hour with a work colleague, who is reading for an MA in Creative Writing at Sussex, critiquing his first attempt at a short story. I am old enough to be his father. (On the other hand, he is precociously young - how many five-year olds are studying for a postgraduate degree these days?) 

It is a frightening responsibility. Much was good, much was bad. I did my best to indicate what I thought worked and how the curate's parts could be improved. He appeared to take it well. I hope he took it well. I am sure he did. Yes, he did take it well. I wasn't too... no.

Hot News Straight Off the Door Mat.

My copy of Closet Reading: 500 Years of Humour on the Loo, by Phil Norman, has just arrived courtesy of Scott Pack of The Friday Project. I shall be reviewing it early next week. So for the next few days I shall be found behaunched.


Girl On The Run said...

it could have been worse, it could have been ' and when he woke up it had all been a dream'

DOT said...

The Intern, shy girl that she is (my irony will not be lost on those who follow her), has, coincidentally, posted on another theme regularly seen in newbie's books - the sudden transformation of characters for no rhyme or reason other than to wrap up the plot and leave the reader with a warm feeling.

DOT said...

Found another link outlining newbie errors:

ChrisH said...

Another trap for the unwary - the copious drinking of tea/coffee... perfect for those 'now what shall I do with them?' moments.

DJ Kirkby said...

I am so far behing on my writing that it is ridiculous. It seems surreal that I used to get up at 5am to write for two hours each day before work,e ven though it was only two weeks ago that my life got twisted about by swine flu. I've got a fabulous book to give away on Sunday on my Chez Aspie blog so please stop by and join in the fun. x

p.s. word verification: hogeye (I kid you not)

DOT said...

I never have a 'what to do with those moments' moment, Chris, 'cos I'm usually asleep at my desk when they occur.

Hope you've recovered from the flu, DJ; I've heard it is really debilitating. Shall drop round Chez Vous and win.