As I mentioned several days ago, I’ve been editing. In contrast from when I was doing it on the computer and hated it, I’m actually finding this to be kind of fun with my red pen of doom. I am now in book 3 of cycle 1 (If you’ll recall, each cycle is broken into 3 books, of which Sleight of Spirit is the first). This means I’m around page 200.
And you know what? I’m starting to want to reach back in time and throttle myself.
We’ve all got our little ticks in our writing, and I’m no exception. I am confident in my characters and my plot. It’s just I never realized how utterly obnoxious those little things were, and how prevalent, until I started correcting them once and for all.
Most of these you’ve all heard before. Hell, I’d heard them before I ever started writing Sleight of Spirit. You tell yourself “Oh, it’s ok, it’s just a little.” or “I’m using it differently than the rule mentions,” or there’s not even a specific rule, you’re just doing it so that you can move on and keep writing.
I love you, readers, and I want to try and pass some writing advice to you that I would have used a comically large frying pan to get across if I was able to time travel.
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Frying Pan O'Doom (With regard to Patricia C. Wrede)
#3 Holding Patterns.
I didn’t even realize this was a thing, nor did I have a name for it, until I read an Editor’s bio (I would completely link here, but I can’t figure out where I saw it! Gr!). Someone who did a short read of my work mentioned it as well. A Holding Pattern is the sentence structure you settle into when writing on autopilot. As soon as it was mentioned, I immediately saw what they meant.
In all technicality, holding patterns aren’t bad English, and they aren’t even the worst thing that can happen. But they’re noticable to a reader because they start to think “hey wait I’ve read that”. Really, they haven’t, they’ve just seen the pattern too many times.
It’s really annoying to fix. You have to go in and mess with your conjugations and shift words so that the sentence changes in structure but doesn’t change in meaning. It’s not difficult for most any native speaker, we do it automatically, but it does take lots and lots of time.
In short, try to watch your holding patterns, because considering how easy they are to avoid the first time around, even if you’re in the midst of Nanowrimo, they take up an awful lot of editing time.
#2 Chapter Closing Sentences
I have a tendency to have a really fabulous ending to a chapter. A huge fight and someone walks out. A death. An epiphany. A solemn declaration.
But then I muck it all up because I need people to walk away in order to close the scene in my head. So there’ll be this great ending dialogue, capped off with “He walked away.” This sort of messes with the flow of the writing because of course someone walks away! It’s implied that this is going to happen, or that the stoyline of the chapter is otherwise over. But by writing “They walked away” I take away from the starkness of the ending.
I remember why I did this, actually, but it still makes me want to tear my hair out. The sentences are there so that my mind closes the chapter. They’re like authorial glue. I know who walked out and who stayed, and I know that the chapter is completely done.
But readers are smart. They can pick up on things like walking out, or the implication that the characters are sitting around some more and shooting the breeze.
So watch this one, but if you need to write it like I do, go ahead. Just remember to edit it out later.
Oh, adverbs. My lovely little friends. I finally understand why all my writing teachers told me to stop using you. Everyone just said ‘oh, they gum up the reading’ or ‘oh, they’re just bad form.’
But in reality, Adverbs, you are just plain redundant.
Division of Reptition Agency.
“Hey, what did she say?” Amy asked softly.
John growled faintly . “Just some crap about ‘we’re all in this together’. Blah, blah, blah.”
“Man, that sucks.” Amy replied sympathetically.
Adverbs. They work. They do the job. But you can do it way more efficiently with some good word choices and a little thought.
“Hey, what did she say?” Amy whispered.
John growled. “Just some crap about ‘we’re all in this together’. Blah, blah, blah.”
“Man, that sucks.” Amy sympathized.
A whisper is soft speaking. A growl is quiet. It’s also implied by the fact that the conversation as a whole is being done covertly. The adverb can be taken out just by changing it to a verb. This streamlines the writing significantly. The whole ‘adverbs are bad’ thing also links with ‘show vs. tell’. Verbs show. Adverbs tell. Which is better?
I’m going to admit it. I will probably always have a weakness for adverbs. They help me concentrate on what’s going on and exactly what’s happening within given scene. But man. They have got to go.
So do you have these weaknesses? Or do you have something else? Have you checked for your holding pattern lately? Your closing sentences? Your adverbs? Did you count how many adverbs I used while ranting about adverbs? (6, if I counted right.) Good luck!