Helping new writers develop their craft

I really enjoy working with new fiction writers and helping them develop their technique. Writing is a combination of imagination and technique. With new writers the ideas and imagination are there, but often their technique is holding them back. Developing technique requires practice and guidance. The guidance is where an editor comes in.

Some writers I work with haven’t done any writing classes or workshops, so they are unaware of the common mistakes new writers make, such as using filter words for action rather than letting the action speak for itself. Compare:

I watch as he walks over to me.          

He walks over to me.

She saw the castle wall looming ahead in the moonlight.         

The castle wall loomed ahead in the moonlight.

Is there a reason to filter the action through the narrator or protagonist? Sometimes there is, but not every time. Unnecessary information clutters the action.

Slipping point of view is another common mistake. A first person narrator, or a limited third person narrator tells us what another character is thinking or feeling, but how do they know?

When I work with a writer I gently point out these things, explaining how they get in the way of the story. I’m not there to ‘correct’ their writing, but to help them develop their craft. And it’s a joy for me when I get repeat work with a writer and see how their writing has matured, letting their stories shine.