Things I Never Knew about My Writing

I’ve returned my attention to my historical romance novel, polishing it up so I can share it with a batch of new readers in my local writing group. One thing I’ve been paying a lot of attention to is Narrative Distance.

I’ve also been combing through my critique partners’ notes on my novel. I read their comments when they were finished with each section but never got around to making all the changes until now.

And it was shocking to find the same things popping up again and again.

For example:

  • I drop words. All the time. Especially pronouns and articles. My husband often catches these for me, but he doesn’t read every single version of everything I write. Maybe he should…
  • I rarely use commas after introductory clauses. Although there are some cases where a comma isn’t needed, for the most part you should include it. The Purdue Online Writing Lab has a great resource on this.
  • I have a problem with near words like where/were and think/thing. There’s probably more of them, but they are tricky for my brain at least to catch.
  • I am wordy. This is partly because I’m writing a historical, and partly because of all the years I wrote academic and technical papers. I’m working on it. Admitting the problem is the first step in getting better. Check out Kim Blank’s Wordiness, Wordiness, Wordiness List  and ensure your work is as lean as possible.
  • I use adverbs as crutches. I’ve blogged about this before, and I’ve gotten better. But I still use “finally” a lot. I’ve started to train myself to avoid it, with mixed results.
  • I recycle the same reactions over and over again. He sighed. She frowned. He grit his teeth. She cursed. You get the idea. I need to sit down and brainstorm other reactions and sprinkle them throughout the manuscript. The Emotion Thesaurus from The Bookshelf Muse will be indispensable for this process.
  • I still do a lot of telling, especially when it comes to emotions. Often I’m just not delving deep enough as to what my character think/feels and instead rely on shallow markers. Although Show and Tell is a topic worthy of it’s own post, here are some links to some resources: Janice Hardy’s You’re So Emotional,’s What “Show, Don’t Tell” Really Means, and Adventures in Children’s Publishing’s Deciding When to Show and When to Tell.

This past week, I also ran across a great post on Ten Steps to a Clean Submission by editor Theresa Stevens. A must read if you are getting twitchy about querying.

And just this morning, Janice Hardy posted Five Ways to Kick Writing Up a Notch with some great tips anyone can do to polish up their prose.

So, what are your common writing mistakes? What have you had to teach yourself not to do?

Happy writing!
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5 thoughts on “Things I Never Knew about My Writing

  1. Lori M. Lee says:

    Ah yes… when I finished Soul, I did a ctrl+search for various words and my god, I was blown away by how often I used them lol. By the time I had cleaned up simple things like overused words and adverbs, I'd already dropped the manuscript by 2k lol.

    The recycled reactions is also a common problem. It's hard to be original every single time something happens to your MC @_@

  2. Laura Marcella says:

    I'm with Talli- I tend to overuse words like just and only. If only I could just quit doing that! Heehee 😉

    It's great you're recognizing these things. Your writing will get better and better!

  3. Sharon K. Mayhew says:

    You've done a great self analysis of your writing here! When I see trends in my writing that need to be addressed, I write a sticky note and put it on my computer or on my desk so that I will pay attention to it as I write or revise. I think recognizing and writing it down makes it stick in your mind more than just thinking about it. (I'm pretty visual.)


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