On Writing: Things That Make It Harder to Read Your Story.
I’ve recently discovered things during my writing and editing process that have helped me to make my writing better, so I thought I’d share them. They’re not things I’d have noticed on my own, but with help from friends and technology, they’ve come to my attention.
First is I overuse adverbs. Holy shit do I overuse adverbs. Enough with the goddamn adverbs already! I know I was taught to use them frequently to help set a scene or describe what a character was doing, but I think they are rarely helpful. If your scene hasn’t told your reader that the hero is carefully removing the detonator from the nuclear device, you need to re-write the scene. Throwing that adverb in there is only going to slow your reader down and give them a mental stumbling block.
Same goes for adjectives, only not quite so much. The urge to describe every detail is annoying, and beyond that, it limits the imagination of your reader. Compare the following sentences: ‘She opened the heavy oak door and scanned the room, noting the black velvet drapes moving in the wind from the half-open window.’ Or ‘She opened the door and scanned the room, noting the drapes moving in the wind from an open window.’
When you read the first one, your brain notes that the door is heavy and oak, then remember that the drapes are black velvet, and by the time you get to the window, there are a jumble of details that all need organization. The second sentence gives you some detail but lets your subconscious imagine the rest. For me, this allows me to read and my brain to set the scene on its own without a bunch of clutter. It helps draw me into the story because I’m creating my own details. Unless it matters that the door is heavy oak later in the story, there’s no reason to include it.
I also struggle a lot with throwing passive voice bits into my writing. I never knew how annoying these could be until I started paying closer attention. What’s passive voice? It’s generically when actions are described instead of just having a character do them himself. It breaks story flow and at least for me, it transposes the proper order of the sentence.
For example: ‘The chief of police was told about the crime.’ VS: ‘Inspector Anderson told the police chief about the crime.’ The first sentence shifts the focus first to the chief before revealing the action, and for me, at least, it makes my brain work harder to keep things in order. I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but I find it annoying, so I’ve been stamping it out wherever I find it in my writing lately.
Not that I’m sponsored or anything, but I have been using Grammarly, and find their paid professional version of their tool to be very handy for catching these kinds of things. I figure I’ll use the paid version for a couple of months since it’ll give me the incentive to finish all my editing all at once and then I can cancel the subscription until my next book is ready to go through the meat grinder.
Happy writing, hope this helps or at least lets you know there are more of us out here in the literary trenches making all the typical mistakes.