Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Writing is a skill, it’s a talent, and some might even say it’s a gift. Still, there are others who would call writing a chore; and it can be if you have difficulty expressing yourself in print. For many authors, one of the most difficult parts of writing is keeping the content fresh and interesting for readers. In the effort to do so, authors sometimes develop habits that threaten the effectiveness of their content.

Most authors may be aware of some common writing mistakes to avoid, such as poor spelling, incorrect punctuation, and fragmented sentences. But have you considered these more obscure slip-ups that might prevent your book content from having the impact you want it to have?  

Repetitive catchwords. You know those favorite phrases or words that pop up repeatedly throughout your book. Most likely, you also use them when you speak. You might not notice them, but a good copy editor will. Avoid using these as a crutch. 

Redundancy. Using two words when only one will suffice. It sometimes takes a keen editing eye to catch these words.

Know the difference between show and tell. A descriptive sentence that tells what the reader sees can either make or break the scene. Instead of saying “a tall, blonde,” be specific and say “ a 6’2” willowy figure with hair flowing past her shoulders.” Play on the senses, so when readers close their eyes, they can envision what is being described. One word of warning: be stingy with your words when describing a character or scene. Less is more.

Dialogue. Sometimes, dialogue is used when narration or description would be better. In writing, the rule is to “Show, dont’ tell.” Avoing using dialogue as a crutch to describe a scene. Use dialogue to give insight into a character’s personality that will not be evident with description alone. 

Modern lingo. If you use current idioms, your book will quickly become outdated. “Neat” was a “cool” word in the 60s, but means nothing to today’s young folks.

To be or not to be. Avoid all forms of be (was, is, etc.). Instead use active, engaging verbs.

Too many words. Minimize extraneous material. If it has no direct relation to the plot, leave it out. Eliminate details that don’t enhance the story.

Character overload. Too many characters tend to clutter a story. It can be confusing and difficult for readers to keep up with a plethora of characters in any type of book. Keep it to a handful of well-developed characters.

Clichés. We’ve all heard them enough times. Be imaginative and make a tired cliché exciting.

Good writing takes practice. Keep at it, watch for the above common writing traps, and experience your writing gift evolving. The more you do it, the better you’ll become. 

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