Tag Archives: planning

Guest Post with Charles Yallowitz- Author Pitfalls: Watch Your Step & Bring Some Rope

Charles Yallowitz was one of the first people I came to know in the blogoshpere. I saw him everywhere and thought he must be magic. But Charles has a dedication to his peers that encompasses many methods of assistance and promotions, helpful comments and suggestions. He also has a great sense of humor. Today he has prepared a guest post that I have the pleasure of sharing with you.

Thank you to Susan for offering to host a promo/guest blog. Now to get the introduction and promo stuff out of the way. My name is Charles E. Yallowitz and I’m the author behind the Legends of Windemere epic fantasy series where the latest one is Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue. I also just released a 27-page short story for 99 cents called Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, so you can get a quick, cheap taste of me . . . whatever. Let’s move on to the fun!

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The world of writing is a dense jungle full of poisonous creatures, carnivorous plants, sudden drops, and a stopwatch that changes speed every few seconds. You may be calm and plan the initial idea, but chaos will appear for most of us at some point. Those that don’t stumble are either lucky or living in a cabin beyond the reach of human contact. If it’s the latter then how in the world do you get Wifi out there?

Every author will run into their own set of pitfalls and challenges. So there are no identical paths, but there are a handful of common dangers that one can slip into without realizing it. I’m not talking about rejection letters, negative reviews, or computer crashes that devour your work as you’re trying to upload to a thumb drive. Those are beyond your full control. Here are a few I thought of from my own experiences that I could have stopped if I had thought about it.

  1. Style Corrosion– Also can be called ‘Style Overload’ or ‘Failed Mimicry’ or whatever else you think of. I’ve mentioned this before on my blog. Many authors with low confidence or high exhaustion will see the suggestions of others as golden wisdom. It really comes off this way if presented as a solid fact instead of an opinion. A young author who is unsure of their style will absorb these suggestions. At first, it isn’t that bad and you might see improvement. Then you take on more advice and your style becomes either a cluttered mess or a carbon copy of an established author. If this goes on for too long, it may take months or years to get back to the style that you’re really comfortable with.
  2. PERFECTION!– I’ve seen so many authors fall to this ideal. It results in a constant creation of drafts to the point where a decade will go by and no progress has been made. It can connect to Style Overload as they adopt a new trick and rewrite the entire story. There are also times a single typo can cause these authors to make a rewrite or scrap what they have. It’s kind of scary. Some of these trapped authors research agents, publishers, and other authors, so they adopt the idea that they’re experts in the field. You’ll get suggestions on what you should do and they may be right, but these people lack the experience to go along with their own advice. I know it sounds like I’m badmouthing this type of author, but you can learn something from them. Maybe you can even convince them to take that scary first step too.
  3. The Universe Will Give Me Time– I wasted a decade of my life on this one. I truly believed that I would work my way through another job to the point where I could also do my writing. Some people can pull this off, but you need the perfect situation for it. I didn’t have that. Instead, I found most of my jobs sucked my energy and I was barely able to maintain the house. This deals a lot with the mentality you need to start writing and I needed to be calm. Exhaustion led to bad writing. So you really have to put your foot down and make time for your writing.
  4. Planning Loop– Much like the writer toiling for a lifetime on the perfect manuscript, you have some authors who don’t even get that far. They fall in love with the world and character creation, but fail to put it into book form. It’s a safety zone because planning and creating without structure prevents full-blooded criticism. You might be told how a few things don’t work, but it’s the comfy planning stage and nothing is written in stone.
  5. Quest for Pure Originality– We’d all love to make a story that is unconnected to anything that has come before it. Sadly, all of your basic stories have been done and readers can be really creative when it comes to connecting new to old. An author who is obsessed with originality may scrap all of their good ideas because one aspect has been done. I’ve met a few of these authors who are at the point where they’ve given up and spend their time turning on others. They become bitter and angry about their ‘failure’, so they lash out. I would consider this the most dangerous pitfall because it can be incredibly toxic and hard to break.
  6. Smug Competitor– At every level, you’ll find authors who are so confident that they refuse to accept advice. This isn’t the bad part though because some people simply don’t see a marketing plan of one person working for them. This pitfall becomes a problem when the author makes a scene about negative reviews and tries to sabotage fellow authors who are doing better. It’s this type of author that can do a lot of damage to the overall community. Thankfully, they’re rarer than we believe.

My Brand of Scrapple

Having finally finished a month of online classes and having all of my homework caught up, I am back to the action steps of actually writing a novel.  I love learning, but I must say that I would not relish the thought of going back to school full-time.  The novel that I have decided to focus on, one out of three WIPs that haven’t come close to really gelling for me, is a crime novel.

Scrapple, also known by the Pennsylvania Dutch name pon haus, is traditionally a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices...a gelatinous gray meat
Scrapple, also known by the Pennsylvania Dutch name pon haus, is traditionally a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices…a gelatinous gray meat. I didn’t learn about this breakfast product until I moved to Florida from Georgia in 1997.

I read a lot of crime, murder mystery, and psycho thriller, as well as legal thriller.  I like books that make me think deeply and use my head for something more than a place to put my hat.  I have never written a crime novel in its entirety, only short stories.  Most I wouldn’t dare share.  They are horribly self-disclosing.  I might be arrested should they be exposed.  I can only imagine what the police would think of me if they confiscated my computer for forensic purposes tomorrow!  Sheesh! I don’t know how this is going to work for me.  I have this one that I was writing in the voice of a gay male.  It was sort of an experiment that went wrong.  I did not like the POV or the first person position of that story.  It started out as more exposition than action and try as I may I could not turn it around.  I have basically trashed it, using it only as a meager reference for some other scenes.

I am keeping the same general murder concept, but I have decided to make the story as much about the detective as the murder, but still trying to keep the psycho thriller aspect of the killer as intact as possible.  So again, I am experimenting with MPOV and first and third person.  I have seriously been making a mess of things, but it is slowly starting to come together and I really like it.  Most significantly, my husband, an avid reader of two or three crime novels a week, likes it.

mind map

Scrivener or not, I am still a linear writer who writes by the seat of my pants and does not plot things out in an outline form at the start.  My starting process to preparing to write is quite primitive.  I brainstorm on paper using what some call the “cluster” technique.  It is basically where you scribble everything down as you think of it and connect it all together with lines and circles and then rewrite it later into something cohesive. It is similar to mind mapping, but not quite as organized as that dendrite approach.  There are all sorts of software out there for mind mapping, and Literature and Latte, the makers of Scrivener, have released a software program called


Scapple (not the North Eastern gray meat)—unlike mind mapping, it’s more like a freeform text editor that allows you to make notes anywhere on the page and to connect them using straight dotted lines or arrows. I AM IN NO WAY PREPARED TO TAKE ON ANOTHER SOFTWARE CHALLENGE AT THIS POINT!

I am going to be content to use my pen and paper to scribble down ideas until they become cohesive enough to group together with text that I have already prepared and then set about getting it written into Scrivener in a bit more orderly fashion than I was previously accustomed to.

Cheers!  Here is looking to a new genre with a new writing tool and an old way of writing.  My poor desk will probably always look something like this:

The Desk Today 001

HOW DO YOU START OFF YOUR WRITING PROCESS? Are you a plotter or a panster?  Do you have a brand of scapple?