Thursday, May 6, 2010


As any writer, aspiring or otherwise, should know, there are many writerly blunders out there, lurking in dark places, just waiting to trip us up. Trust me on that one.

Yes, we know there are a ton of rules and that, if we prefer (I do, btw) we can break them willy-nilly! Yeah, I'm a rebel like that sometimes. The blunders, however, are a bit different then rules.

Writer's Digest had an article out about the most common writing blunders and I hope to finish reading it this weekend and do a post for early next week. In the meantime . . .

Let me talk about my own writing blunder. Yes, horror of horrors, I committed a writing blunder. I have no clue how it happened. Okay, I do, but having no clue sounds a wee bit better than having a clue.

My writing blunder - too time specific. Yes, too time specific. I believe if you say those words out loud they'll echo around you in a deep booming voice that will slowly fade off into the distance.

Anyhow, unless your piece of brilliance takes place in a specific year . . . DO NOT get too time specific. DO NOT have your characters discuss certain events that are, well, too time specific.

I did all of this. I blame it solely on the margaritas. Ha! Okay, it wasn't the margaritas but I was writing Margarita Nights at the time, and that's the piece of brilliance where my blunders are so evident.

I was too time specific.

Now, I have to go and undo my time specificocity (yeah, not a word, but I like how it flows). I have to pull out some really good sections and rework those sections with less time specific info. Oh, I can still include the basic concept behind those scenes, the gist of the conversation, but the point is . . . I was too time specific and that's not a good thing unless I'm set on my novel taking place in the year 2005 . . . which I'm not.

Have you done this before? Have you been too time specific? Do you care that you're too time specific? Do you just figure that an agent/editor will tell you to correct it at a later date and just not care? Do you worry that the time specificocity might cause an agent to go REJECT?


SJDuvall said...

To the best of my knowledge, I haven't made my novels time specific. By the way, love the word specificocity.

I think I've always just been worried about my work becoming dated, so I try to steer away from specific references that will point to the reader: Hey, I wrote this in 1995, or 2003, or whenever I wrote it.

Cynthia Reese said...

My first (well, second, if you count the attempt I made at age 9) of a romance novel was set in 1996, with the backdrop of the Olympics in Atlanta. Dumb me. I didn't realize that it would take a year for a book to come out, even after it sold, and that I wasn't counting on the length of time to write it and the length of time to sell it.

Blunderer I was. Book never got finished btw.

Lady Glamis said...

Interesting post, Scott. I think there's many blunders we can all make. I never thought of being too time specific as a blunder, but I can see how it could happen. I wish you luck on fixing that!

I do think that setting your story in a specific time is not a bad thing, if that's part of the story and the setting and what helps move the story forward. There's nothing wrong with that.

Scott said...

SJ – I’m glad you like my new word. I really didn’t think about the ‘dated’ aspect when I wrote the novel. It was only during the edit phase that I realized I was too time specific with certain topics of conversation.

Cynthia – there is that whole ‘taking a long time’ thing between writing, finding an agent, publishing, etc., that really makes time specific references a major blunder. Then again, if the book needs to be set in a certain year . . . go for it!

Lady Glamis – thanks. I agree that setting the story in a specific time is not a bad thing if it is what works for the story. With my project, I don’t (or maybe no longer) want it so time specific. I want it a bit more general and all-timey.

Indigo said...

I recently commited this blunder. One of my characters mentioned the day after Halloween. He said, "Tuesday the day after Halloween." If you look up what year Halloween falls on a Monday, I'm locked into a year.

Not a biggie, but yeah, it's easy to do. (Hugs)Indigo

Tess said...

I lose sense of time in my writing now and again. It can be difficult.

but, my writing blunder? I once submitted a manuscript that said "the smell of juicyfruit gum lifted from every poor"

yep, poor instead of pore. It was embarrassing to see that correction come back. I wanted to bury my head, or call that agent and say "I KNOW the difference, I swear I do!!"