Tips for the Serious Writer
Tips for the Serious Writer
By Tony DeLorger © 2011
Writing is a passion most on HubPages will understand. However, if your passion becomes more serious, there is certain knowledge to be acquired. Whether you want to write articles or write a book, fiction or non-fiction, the expertise you need is more than a brush up on grammar.
Most writers make mistakes, but if you don’t want your manuscript to be cast aside in the first few pages, you need to be professional and not reek of an amateur. The following offers writing and editing tips you cannot ignore if you want a career as a writer.
Firstly, the problems that immediately dismiss you as an amateur-
Every writer unconsciously uses a word repeatedly in their writing. This is commonly called as a ‘crutch word’. It’s rarely noticed by the writer, but very obvious to an editor. Promise yourself to discover and eradicate the repeats.
Incredibly, completely, ironically, actually, really, unfortunately, finally, totally, literally and many more words are designed to emphasise, but often do the reverse. Overuse can degrade the meaning of a sentence. When you remove these words you’ll discover how much more power the sentence has.
Don’t take a perfectly good word and complicate it with a suffix. They make the eye stumble, having to reread the word and interrupt the flow of reading. This is not what you want. Words like courageousness, preciousness and mindlessness are all suspect. Occasionally ‘ness’ words can be used, but infrequently. The ‘ize’ words are just as bad- finalize, cartegorize and the like. Use them sparingly.
Advancing the plot with dialogue is fine but readers know when a writer is using it for their benefit. Don’t use dialogue to convey information the reader already knows. Dialogue offers glimpses of a character that the writer hasn’t provided through description. ‘Show’ us rather ‘Tell’ us. Wit, charm, observations are provided by dialogue and helps to distinguish each character. Phony dialogue will appear out of character.
Writing needs texture, depth and character. Without it, it appears bland, and no one cares. Re-write with life, otherwise the reader will believe the writer has lost interest and whose work is mediocre.
‘TO BE’ WORDS...
Often prose is flattened by the ‘To be’ words – ‘am,’ ‘is,’ ‘are,’ ‘was,’ ‘were,’ being,’ ‘be,’ ‘been,’ and many more. As a writer you need to be attuned to the frequent use of these words. The words represent the existence of things- ‘I am here. You are there.’ These words don’t act they just sit on the page. ‘It was Fred who joined the swimming team.’ It’s flat!
‘There was’ is also something to avoid. ‘John couldn’t believe there was pizza left.’ ‘There was a pillow on the floor.’ Too much of this and we’ll be dozing off. You find heaps of these in your writing so replace them with active and engaging verbs.
SHOW, DONT TELL...
‘She was stunning, attractive, fabulous, hilarious etc’ is telling. ‘I was stunned by her elegance as she strode up to me, erect, elbows back, eyes wide and flashing.’ If we can visualise the picture you’re trying to paint, then that is showing. It is revealing and opens up the character, describing specifics. Showing is usually about senses, visual, aural aromatic words that deliver us into the scene.
Lists are just plain boring. ‘She was overwhelmed by the pansies, carnations, roses, hollyhocks, hyacinths’ etc, etc, etc. Ditch it all and rewrite.
‘Mr Jeffrey’s face reddened dramatically.’ This smacks of trying too hard. Awkward phrases make the reader stop to think about the meaning of the phrase, slowing down the read. Always keep this in mind- simplify and maintain pace.
Compound sentences require commas. Sometimes you can break the rules but don’t do it to add tension. Punctuation is important so buy a book and use punctuation correctly.
Use the ‘Find’ feature on your computer and search for ‘that.’ Eliminate all that you can. ‘Every one that you can,’ should be ‘every one you can.’ You will be surprised how many you find.
Using ‘Find’ again search for ‘ing’. Usually paired with ‘was’ as in ‘She was desperately trying to get his attention.’ These are passive forms and active past tense is much livelier. ‘She desperately tried to get his attention.’
Search for ‘was.’ She was tempted by the sale.’ Replace with ‘The sale tempted her.’ Rid yourself of all the ‘to be’ words by switching subject and object.
Hunt down all the adverbs and get rid of them. Use verbs. ‘He tried desperately to get her attention.’ Replace with ‘He fought to get her attention.’ Sounds better doesn’t it?
Hunt down adjectives and remove as many as you can. Readers can fill in all the detail. ‘The old hall is a small rectangular building.’ Replace with ‘The old hall is small.’
Delete the word ‘very’ & ‘every’ on most occasions.
Delete unnecessary possessives- her, his, him etc.
Remove ‘seemed to.’ Make it definitive, not watered down.
Remove ‘used to.’ Replace ‘I used to run,’ with ‘I run.’
Substitute ‘in’ for ‘within,’ if possible.
Delete whenever able—that, a little, quite, rather, really, a bit, a little, pretty, sort of, kind of, so, somewhat, thing, appeared to, got, fairly seemed to, getting, slightly.
Leave out ‘then’ as much as possible.
Delete all clichés unless original
Always delete padding.
Remove ‘let it.’ Let should be removed
The above has been written succinctly for the purpose of publishing, however the information is critical for all writers to learn and apply. The more professional our work the greater our prospects of being taken seriously.