Monday, April 25, 2011

Writing Tip Card - Writing Wrongs

What do editors do when they get bored? (Okay, that's a trick question. Editors don't have time to get bored). However, in their spare time, the editors at Inspiration for Writers, Inc., made a list of the top "writing wrongs" they encounter. As the list grew, so did the suggestions for what to do with such a list. The result? A 3.75" x 8.25" glossy card you can keep by your computer to remind you to right your writing wrongs before sending out your manuscript.

The best news? We'll send a free card to the first ten people who email Sandy at Be sure to send your full mailing address and state what you want (a free Writing Wrongs card). If you belong to a writing group and would like enough for your group, email Sandy with the number of people in your group.

Now, in case you can't wait for your full-color card, here's what they say:

Think your manuscript is ready to send out into the world? Before you do, polish your prose by eliminating or reducing:
~ Spelling and grammar errors. Proof once more.
~ Telling. Take the time to act out scenes with appropriate action, dialogue, and description.
~ Was, were, is, are. Each time you locate one of these “to-be” verbs, find a way to omit it. They are often a clue of passive sentence construction. Bad: There were three boys in the room. Better: Three boys wrestled in the gym. Note that fixing passive construction forces us to use more powerful verbs and urges us to be more specific.
~ Present participles (the fancy name for “ing” verbs). Replace with past tense wherever possible. Bad: It was raining. Better: Rain pelted the windows.
~ Helping verbs. Bad: She began to sing. Better: She sang. Bad: She could hear a train. A little better: She heard a train. Much better: A train whistled in the distance.
~ Adverbs. “Ly” words are a sign that a stronger verb is needed. Bad: She was exceedingly tired. Better: She was exhausted. Better: Exhaustion weighed her shoulders, ached her limbs.
~ Creative dialogue tags. Bad: “I love it,” she jittered. Better: “I love it,” she said.
~ Dialogue tags. Replace with an action or body language. Better: “I love it!” She hopped on one foot and danced around John.
~ Dialogue explanations. Don’t tell your reader what your dialogue shows. Bad: John told her off. “Don’t you ever do that again!” Better: John’s eye twitched. “Don’t ever do that again!”
~ Intensifiers. Very, really, totally, completely.
~ Any nonessential word. If a sentence reads just as well without a word, leave it out. Common criminals: that, of, prepositions at the end of a sentence, and suddenly used to create urgency (when action should be creating that urgency).
~ Clich├ęs. If you’ve heard it before, so has your reader. Find a fresh way to say it.
~ Stacked adjectives. If you must use an adjective, pick the strongest one. Bad: The large, gray, angry fox attacked the rabbit. Better: The large fox attacked the rabbit.
~ Exclamation marks. Use only when shouting.
~ Ellipses ( . . . ). Use only when text is missing or, occasionally, as a device to show a falling off in tone during dialogue.
~ Redundancy. Say it once; say it right. Readers are smart. Really.
~ Viewpoint breaches. Know whose head you’re in and stay in it. Or stay out of all heads.
~ Smiling, nodding, laughing, sighing. Nothing wrong with these, but overuse will remove the sizzle from your finely-crafted words. If you use any of these more than once per scene, try to find more creative actions or fresher body language.
~ Gawking characters. Get your character out of the way of the action. Bad: John saw the sun rise. Better: The sun tiptoed into the horizon. Bad: Jill watched the squirrel shell nuts. Better: The squirrel shelled nuts.
~ Named emotions. If an emotion is named, it means you’re telling, not showing. Bad: She was angry. Better: She slammed her fist on the keyboard.

Be sure to request your card while supplies last. And remember, when you need a second set of eyes to review your writing, we're here.

(c) copyright 2011, Inspiration for Writers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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