What are your bad writing habits? Lexa Hillyer is the author of PROOF OF FOREVER, a debut young adult novel published by HarperCollins. Below, Lexa analyzes the bad writing habits that stop you from reaching your full potential.
Since long before penning my own first novel, PROOF OF FOREVER, I have been an editor of teen fiction. I worked for several years at Harper and then at Penguin before I started Paper Lantern Lit, a boutique literary development company. I’ve always said that editing is kind of like therapy—your most important job as an editor is to help your writers better articulate what they want. Often what that really means is helping them get out of their own way and freeing them of whatever “bad habits” are holding them back.
In order to discover your own bad habits and become your own best therapist, I’ve put together a few key steps:
1) KNOW THYSELF.
The first thing you need to establish is the answer to the following questions:
What kind of writer AM I?
What exactly is it that I’m trying to do?
What is it that makes my project “ME”?
2) STUDY YOUR HEROES.
It’s just as crucial that you know what you are NOT trying to do. Avoid vague and general ambitions like “I want to become the next J.K. Rowling.” Instead, really zero in on the strengths that you particularly pride yourself in, the things you love most about Rowling’s work, the elements you are striving to emulate, and why.
The more granular you can get, the better. Here’s where a lot of us trip up. We think: Rowling is so good at making up an alternative world, and that’s what I want to do. Then we go crazy creating a super-complex, potentially even impenetrably convoluted fantasy world that lacks all the appeal of the Potter franchise. Basically, we over-deliver. Instead, you want to figure out HOW she does what she does so well. Try and break it down into concrete actions. In what chapter does the character depart from the real world and under what circumstances? What are the characters’ very first impressions of the alternate world? How much of the rules are established right off the bat? Continue reading