Kristina Stanley invited me to share a list of 10 common mistakes mystery writers make on her Mystery Monday blog at .https://kristinastanley.com/2017/03/27/mystery-mondays-author-carolyn-mulford-on-10-common-mistakes/#comment-18812.
For years I’ve been talking about improving both nonfiction and fiction writing by identifying and correcting typical errors. By knowing what those are, you can catch them as you write the first draft or read the completed one.
What I haven’t emphasized is what you gain by making certain mistakes—in the first draft. For example, writers often delay action and bore readers with info dumps. As an editor, these drive me nuts. As a writer, I recognize the value of writing long, of putting everything in the first draft. In the second draft, we must delete, choose telling details, and move content to the most effective spot.
Writers need to know much more than their readers in order to select what to tell them. For example, we must research details about how a poison works or analyze the traumatic effect of a pre-book incident or trace a realistic provenance of a stolen painting. Once we know such things, we find it hard to resist an info dump, but the reader doesn’t need or want all that information.
The thing is, including all our research and conceptualization in the first draft puts it right where we can find it and gives us an opportunity to select the right nuggets in the next, or a later, draft.
Info dumps can pop up anywhere, but they’re particularly deadly in the opening when lengthy backstory, description, or academic discussions delay action. Insert your little gems with adjectives, phrases, and sentences, not paragraphs, pages, and chapters.
Bad mistakes, if recognized, can lead to better writing. After all, we usually learn more from our failures than our successes.