Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Some Common Writing Issues

Nearly forgot that today was my posting day, what with the holidays and all the hustle and bustle associated with them. In between all the gift purchases, and trying to get work done on my own projects, I've had several editing requests come in. So, for today, I'll post a small number of items that I've seen coming up a lot lately in all of these edits:

  • Repetition: This actually goes for two separate issues that many writers stumble upon, possibly without even noticing.
    The first is when you unknowingly repeat words or phrases within close proximity to each other. When we're writing, and even reading, we often gloss right over this issue. But try reading your material aloud, and see whether you notice something amiss. A recent writer's group meeting I attended had a read-along where I noticed that the writer was repeating a *this and that* phrasing over ten times in a single paragraph. Others I've noticed over the years have been where people begin every sentence in a paragraph with I, he, and it. So, take a closer look. It's quite possible you'll find a few of these little tidbits as well.
    The second is a little bit trickier to detect, but with a closer read, it comes out. In this case, the words we use are unnecessary because they repeat the same information that is given elsewhere. Some examples would be the phrase "fall down" (when have you ever known something to fall up?), or telling the reader that the character is holding something in their hand (which is usually the obvious place to hold somewhere). Giving sounds or smells, and also describing them with the words "sound" or "smell" (such as "a clapping sound") are also some big ones.

  • Wishy-Washy Words: Readers like action, but they like it to be strong...and quite often we write in ways that aren't so strong (or as I like to refer to them, "wishy-washy"). Some really good examples of this involve the phrases "started to", "began to", "almost" "somewhat" and other phrases, when paired with verbs, that imply only a partial action. Unless your character truly only partially conducted their affairs, you can usually remove these wishy-washy words and not impact your original intent.

  • Descriptive verbs: We're all guilty of it. We want to rely on our old standby verbs like walked, grabbed, said, and other such standards. In addition to getting in on the repetition issue previously mentioned, we also run the risk of not being descriptive enough with our words. Did your character truly walk, or did they inch, creep, or saunter? Did they grab something, or did they clutch it, or maybe even snatch it away? Did they just say their words, or perhaps they whispered, screamed, or maybe even choked up over their words?
Hopefully these have been useful for those writers reading this post. And I hope that when you take a look through your own material, you'll catch a few of these and strengthen your writing accordingly. So, good editing, and enjoy the ride!
T. M. Hunter


TK Toppin said...

Always good to be reminded of these points. Thanks, and all the best for Christmas!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

All good points. And, Merry Christmas to you and yours.

January Bain said...

Helpful post, thanks!

T. M. Hunter said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

Rita Bay said...

So late posting but so true. I am guilty of "so-ing." "So this. So that" and I know better. Thanks for the reminder. Happy Holidays. Rita Bay

KMTolan said...

Finally dropped in after holidays. Nice cover for "Forge".