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There are so many out there, I am only going to talk about a few of mine today. The good news is, after you realize what your bad habits are you can learn to correct them as you write.
I forget to tell the reader something I know. I imagine it so clearly in my head, but I forget to inform the reader. This is usually a description or an animal, a person, or a place.
I love adding in unnecessary words. Many adverbs are completely unnecessary. If I erase the word and the sentence still makes sense, giving the same amount of information, the word goes. Some of my favorites are: just, actually, finally, very, started, then, like, that. Before, I spoke of copying my story into Wordle and using it to check how often I’ve reused words. It was surprising that first time to see a huge just in the center.
This also goes for wishy-washy words that don’t really add anything. I have a lot of these: a lot (oh the irony), a bit, a while, sort of, kind of, about, around, almost, think, believe, looks, seems, feels, begin, start, continue. I write in first person, so I can get away with a few seems and thinks, because these are my main character’s impressions.
I am fond of adjectives because, they’re easier. “He was tall.” Doesn’t say much, if someone is four foot tall, five feet would be tall. “He was 6.4 and 180 pounds” Specific, but boring. Why would I need to know exact details? “His head brushed the ceiling.” Shows he is tall, not exactly, but it gives the reader a good idea. In a romance novel, characters are described differently, but in a fantasy, no one needs to know how his muscles ripple, or her clothes flow around her curves.
Scene changes are difficult for me. I tend to use meal times to show time has passed. At least I’ve gotten past the little kid way of saying, “And then” or “Finally.” I’ve been paying attention to how authors I read handle this. The most common way is to show a scene change or going to the next chapter, jumping right into the action. They make sure to let the reader know anything that has changed, like time, or if someone left, but they don’t usually come out and say “A few hours later” like I am prone to do.
Warning my reader, by giving a hint that something exciting is going to happen before it does. Suddenly is the biggest one, but sometimes I’ll say things like “I thought it would go this way” which tells the reader that it isn’t going to happen.
Telling instead of showing, this is a big one. “She was angry.” I am telling my readers about her anger, but it has less impact than, “She ground her teeth and clenched her fists. “ I read some good advice today; tell what the character sees, but show everything else, to let your readers figure it out themselves. Show the important stuff and tell the unimportant.
What are some of the bad things you are prone to doing in your writing?