Avoid These Writing Bloopers

Still in revision mode here. My novel writing student sometimes feel confused about the divide between “junking it through” and “fixing it up.” A reminder: When you are in draft mode (creating the prose) use a devil-may-care attitude. Then later,when you revise, aim for perfection.
Writing Tip for Today: As you edit your own work, search out and revise these common writing bloopers:

  • Table Scenes. As I preach frequently, a scene set around a table is limited. Readers don’t like static. They love action. Get your characters doing something other than sitting around drinking (tea, coffee, etc) and blabbing.
  • Too Much Dialogue. The table scene often leads to the dialogue doing more than its share of the story work. Readers like dialogue, but they also want a total cinematic experience wherever possible. All talk and no action makes your story a dull read. Mix it up. See my posts on the Rule of Three.
  • Back Story Backstabbing. Many times a long interior narrative (aka soliloquy or monologue) leads to a flashback of one sort or another. The Rule of Three is handy here too, as is the Cold Mashed Potatoes Rule. If you stay too long in a character’s head (for whatever purpose) the reader feels trapped. Don’t forget about the Real Time Action.
  • Hellish Homophones. In the smaller picture arena, don’t rely on spell check to keep you from misspellings. A homophone sounds alike but is spelled (and used) differently. If used incorrectly, words like break and brake, weight and wait, waist and waste or the various forms of “you are” and there (your, you’re) and (there, they’re, their) can make a reader close your book. Learn the different homophones–after all we are writers.
  • Modifier Madness. Adverbs (modifying a verb) or “ly” words as well as descriptors (adjectives) can clutter and weigh down your prose. Learn to write in nouns and verbs.
  • To Be? Finally, do a global search for all forms of the verb to be. While everyone uses these words, you may be over relying on them, especially if the to be word is followed by a word ending in “ing.” Tighten by dropping the “was” and using the simple past tense verb instead. (EX: He was walking. He walked)

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

3 comments on “Avoid These Writing Bloopers

  1. Thank you so much for all these tips Linda. I have to own up to using “was” before an “ing” word so I really need to tighten up on that one. Your tip about staying too long in the main character’s head is another one I found helpful.

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