Friday, May 14, 2010

Top 10 Writing Mistakes

I ran across an article (link below) regarding common mistakes authors make and wanted to share some highlights.
Interesting that most well-known & seasoned authors are guilty of making these errors... I see them often and have to wonder how they get away with the constant switching of POV, as well as the following 10, while aspiring authors can not.

1. REPEATS-- 'crutch words' that become distracting to the reader. For instance, using 'he/she said' over and over.
2. FLAT WRITING-- a sign that you’ve lost interest or are intimidated by your own narrative. It says your brain is fatigued, that you’ve lost your inspiration. When you see flat writing on the page, it’s time to rethink, refuel and rewrite.
3. EMPTY ADVERBS--Actually, totally, absolutely, completely, continually, constantly, continuously, literally, really, unfortunately, ironically, incredibly, hopefully, finally – these and others are words that promise emphasis, but too often they do the reverse. They suck the meaning out of every sentence.
4. PHONY DIALOGUE--using dialogue to advance the plot. Readers can tell when characters talk about things they already know, or when the speakers appear to be having a conversation for our benefit. You never want one character to imply or say to the other, “Tell me again, Bruce: What are we doing next?”
5. NO-GOOD SUFFIXES--Don’t take a perfectly good word and give it a new backside so it functions as something else. The “ness” words cause the eye to stumble, come back, reread: Mindlessness, characterlessness, courageousness, statuesqueness, preciousness – you get the idea.
6. THE “TO BE” WORDS--Once your eye is attuned to the frequent use of the “to be” words – “am,” “is,” “are,” “was,” “were,” “be,” “being,” “been” and others – you’ll be appalled at how quickly they flatten prose and slow your pace to a crawl.
7. LISTS--“She was entranced by the roses, hyacinths, impatiens, mums, carnations, pansies, irises, peonies, hollyhocks, daylillies, morning glories, larkspur…” Well, she may be entranced, but our eyes are glazing over...
8. SHOW, DON’T TELL--Handsome, attractive, momentous, embarrassing, fabulous, powerful, hilarious, stupid, fascinating are all words that “tell” us in an arbitrary way what to think. They don’t reveal, don’t open up, don’t describe in specifics what is unique to the person or event described. Often they begin with cliches.
9. AWKWARD PHRASING--Awkward phrasing makes the reader stop in the midst of reading and ponder the meaning of a word or phrase. This you never want as an author. A rule of thumb – always give your work a little percolatin’ time before you come back to it. Never write right up to deadline. Return to it with fresh eyes. You’ll spot those overworked tangles of prose and know exactly how to fix them.
10. COMMAS--Compound sentences, most modifying clauses and many phrases *require* commas. You may find it necessary to break the rules from time to time, but you can’t delete commas just because you don’t like the pause they bring to a sentence or just because you want to add tension.

Here's the link to the complete article:

Until next time,
Amulet of Fate
Once A Rebel (Book 1 in The Orphan Train series)
Corsair Cove
Adrian's Angel (coming August, 2010)


Big Mike said...

Good post Angie, and guess what? I've done them all.

Big Mike

Angela said...

LOL, me too!