Recently, someone asked what I considered my strongest talent in writing to be and it got me to thinking about my weakest. Like my character, Tizzy, I tend to think my cup is always half-empty, so it was natural for me to focus on my weakest.
Narrowing it down to one, proved to be more difficult than I thought, so I came up with my top five. I’m not alone. These are all mistakes new writers make, but even seasoned writers, now and then, fall victim to old habits. If we didn’t, editing wouldn’t be such a big job.
So, here I go, in no particular order.
1. Over use of the word “that”
To avoid using “that” too much, I do a word search, find each one, and read the sentence, and then read it again, without it. If omitting it doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence, I edit it out.
2. Over writing or over explaining
Here’s an example: He was accepted unconditionally at each university where he’d applied. In fact, he couldn’t remember applying to any school where he’d not been accepted… Because both of those sentences say the same thing, only one is needed.
3. Use of too many proper names or pronouns
This is a biggie for me. I find myself using my character’s names each time I refer to them, when a pronoun would work better. But then, a new problem. I have to be careful not to use pronouns too much in one sentence….She leaned forward and rested her head in her hand…she, her, her…oops.
4. Use of too many adverbs
This is one mistake I’ve overcome. Thank goodness. Now that I have, it drives me nuts to read authors who do this, especially if they use them with tags. She said, quietly. He said, wearily. She said, happily. He said, sternly.
As one editor pointed out, verbs drive a story, not adverbs.
5. The dreaded info dump
This happens when the author includes a long stretch of backstory such as a character’s childhood into the middle of an action scene. Even though the information may be important, it will stop the forward pace of the story. Exposition/backstory should be written in bits and pieces as the story progresses. Dialogue is an excellent way to do this.
I could go on with a much longer list. Show, don’t tell. Point of View (POV) switches. Punctuation. Passive voice. Avoid clichés. Too many metaphors or similes. Description. and on and on.
Successful writers make writing look easy, but not one will claim it is. This writing stuff is hard and like my grandma always said: Good, Better, best. Never let it rest, until the good is better and the better is best…thus…edit, edit, edit!
Oh, if I have a strong point, it’s dialogue…or so I’m told.
What’s your strongest writing talent?