The Literati (my critique group).
Welcome to For the Writer
No, I’m not “there” yet, wherever there happens to be.
But I am in the midst of a journey to discover my voice and to learn to be the best writer and story teller that I can be.
Join me in the journey.
I am starting a series for new writers based on the common mistakes most of us make as first timers. If you know someone who harbors a secret, or not so secret, passion for writing, please pass it on!
Common Writing Pitfalls #1
Mechanics and Style: Adverbs, Passive, Adjectives.
1. Passive voice (using was, is, has been, was verbs plus -ing) You can use passive sometimes to keep the flow and cadence going, but it’s better to make it an exception and not the rule.
Example: He was heading to the store. vs. He headed to the store.
Most of the time, you can pluck the was or is out and make the verb past tense.
Example: She was walking toward the tree. vs. She skipped toward the tree.
Not only do we need to fix the “was” but we needed a stronger verb to paint a better picture. Now we know she exuded happiness! She could have sauntered, strolled, paced, etc. Pick the verb that best describes the tone and mood you are trying to get across.
2. -ly adverbs. Adverbs distract and take away from the pace of the story. Replace weak verb/adverb combinations with one strong verb that sets your tone. If you absolutely have to use an adverb, like I just did, make sure it’s one among pages and pages of no adverbs.
Example: Gloria ran happily to her stash of candy buried in the backyard. vs. Gloria dashed toward her stash of candy in the backyard.
3. Don’t overuse adjectives. Make your descriptions clear and concise without overload. Describe what you need to in a clean, precise manner.
Example: “The hard, steel door slammed loudly behind me and I cringed in absolute fear as I stared at the wide, metal table in the lone, empty room.”
First look at all the adjectives—hard, steel, absolute, wide, metal, lone, empty. Then I have an adverb, and a few redundancies. Steel means hard. Lone means empty. If you slam something, it’s usually loud. If the room is truly empty, there would be not be a table. Also, it’s a long sentence and some of the punch gets lost in the wordiness.
Try this instead: The steel door slammed behind me, leaving me alone in the room. I stared at the metal table and cringed.
4. Be clear and specific when you write sentences and descriptions. Don’t use vague words such as it or things. Also, to build a stronger sense of setting, use specific nouns rather than general ones.
Example: She sat beneath the tree. vs. She slumped beneath the towering oak.
Example: (Telling) “I love chocolate,” Mary said.
Now we know Mary likes chocolate. Big deal. How fun was that. You told us and we didn’t even have to visualize it in our minds. No painting of a word picture here.
Try this: (Showing) Mary scooped another chocolate candy from the dish and held it by her nose, breathed in the delicious smell, and popped it into her mouth.
1. Join a critique group.
But go a step further–encourage each other to learn. Read books, attend seminars, and learn. Bring all that wonderful information back to your group. Ideal size? I’ve heard the “magic triangle of three.” We have seven, which gets a bit long, but we each bring something different to the group. Wouldn’t give up any of them!
2. Be an encourager for newer, younger writers.
When you teach, you learn! Plus, you never know when you might need a mentor. Someone is always the newer, younger writer.
3. Don’t give up!
This is not an overnight career. Unfortunately. Hard work and many hours do add up to something. Keep pushing yourself to be better. And don’t quit. Quitting is the only time we fail.
4. Keep a “happy folder” in your email.
Save all the positive responses you get. On a down day, click the file open and be encouraged!
Tip from my friend, Gloria Richard. http://gloriarichard.wordpress.com/
“Beware your inner editor! I named mine (Gracie) to get past those “quick edits” of the first chapter. A perfect first chapter doth not a sale make! I C&P work from the prior day into a new file before I close shop for the day. Now, I reread what was written the prior day (to get back “in voice”), leave notes (“GRACIE, need to…”) and write forward. Characters tend to take you down paths not predicted in your outline (if you have one). It’s likely early chapters will require edits during final rewrite to include the new twist.”
Links to Learn
(Some of my favorite sites for writers)
Author Mary DeMuth
“My favorite part of being a writer is that I constantly have to use my imagination,
which is a fun place to be. I make up worlds, bother my characters, and produce
all sorts of mayhem (and it’s legal.)” Mary DeMuth
Author/Writing Guru Frank Ball
For specific writing tips click on Write Ideas
“I have two brains, not one. I have what I call “editor brain,” which is the way of thinking I use when I write the way I was taught in school. This brain doesn’t write very fast because he’s constantly questioning the words, editing, and revising.” Frank Ball
North Texas Christians Writers
Check this site out for great writing tips on punctuation and word usage.
Blogs of the Brilliant
Check out Candid Christianity
Check out Gloria Richard
A while you’re checking, stay awhile and meander through the rest of my blog!
Click here for my newest blog post.
Answer to the riddle:
WHAT DO WRITER’S NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL?