Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Common Writing Mistakes & How to Avoid Them P.2 - Guest Post by SM Ford

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Annually, I’m one of the judges for a teen novel writing contest. These teens have had good instruction and have spent nine months to a year writing their novels. They do amazing work—better than some adults—but still there are patterns of errors I see that you can learn from.

** {If you missed Part 1 of this series, written by SM Ford, please be sure to check it out here.} **

Common Writing Mistakes & How to Avoid Them - P.2 

Not So Great Word Choices
If the verb is strong enough, an adverb isn’t needed.  In dialogue, the words (and accompanying actions) should be clear enough that the reader “gets” what the adverb is indicating about the dialogue, making the adverb unnecessary. e.g. “You make me so mad!” Stacie slammed the door. We don’t need, “she said angrily.”
         Weak Adjectives
They tell us what we already know, instead of what we don’t know. For example, we all know grass is supposed to be green, which means green grass doesn’t tell us a lot. Dry grass, freshly mown grass, sparse grass—each gives us a different picture.
Overuse of “as”
As” is a word we often use to show things happening simultaneously.  Yes, in real life they do often happen at once.  However, in writing it’s easier to just think of things happening one at a time.  Sometimes you can take “as” out and break the sentence into two sentences.  Other times you might want to use another preposition, e.g. when, while, or reorder the sentence so it isn’t necessary.  You can’t “not” use it, you just don’t want to overuse it.
Weedy or Weasel Words


Danglers aka Misplaced Modifying Clauses
Clauses not being next to what they are modifying.  e.g. He clenched his fists watching their bus back to Manchester speeding away.  His fists aren’t watching, he is.  This would be clearer:  Watching their bus speeding back to Manchester, he clenched his fists. 

Passive Verbs
·      Begins/began, starts/started, verbs ending in “ing” – e.g. was walking.
·      Verbs that distance the reader from the action.  e.g. “let herself drop” instead of “dropped,” “attempted to reach” instead of “reached.”

         The FIX:
·      Use stronger verbs instead of weak verbs and an adverb.
·      Use well-chosen adjectives that create a specific picture.
·      Search and destroy overused words!
·      Check that your modifying clauses are close to the subject that is being modified.
·      Turn passive verbs into active ones.

Only Using a Few of the Five Senses
            Seeing and Hearing are easiest.
         The FIX:
·      Don’t forget Smell, Taste, Touch and the sixth sense, Temperature!
·      Aim for 3 sensory details per scene.

·      Intricate details of clothing probably don’t add much, unless it relates to the plot in a specific way. Use a few when necessary to establish a time period or character.
·      Taking forever to get to the point of a scene. Make sure you’re sharing what the reader cares about.
·      Burying action with description. We read for what is happening!
·      Overdone dialogue tags/attributions.
·      Too many characters.
         The FIX:
·      Tighten sentences. Remove excess words and descriptions.
·      Write a one sentence summary of a scene and make sure everything in the scene contributes to that point.
·      Interweave action and description together.
·      Don’t replace “said” or “asked” with a bunch of different creative words or add adverbs.
·      You don’t have to put a “said” or “asked” or some such attribution with every line of dialogue.  It’s often much stronger to use an action instead. This is part of showing. 
·      Is every secondary/tertiary character necessary?  Or can you combine a couple into one person?

You work on all six of these concepts mentioned in Parts 1 and 2, and your writing will improve greatly!

~ ~ ~

Which writing mistake is the hardest for you to overcome? Be sure to join the convo in the comments!

SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too.
When she was thirteen, she got hooked on Mary Stewart's romantic suspense books, although she has been a reader as long as she can remember, and is an eclectic reader. Inspirational authors she enjoys include: Francine Rivers, Bodie Thoene, Dee Henderson, Jan Karon, and many more.
SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, but has also lived in the midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey). She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.
She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.

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ALONE is an inspirational romantic suspense novel. It released from Clean Reads in June 2016 as an ebook. 

Ready for adventure in the snowy Colorado mountains, Cecelia Gage is thrilled to be employed as the live-in housekeeper for her favorite bestselling author. The twenty-five-year old doesn’t count on Mark Andrews being so prickly, nor becoming part of the small town gossip centering on the celebrity. Neither does she expect to become involved in Andrews family drama and a relationship with Simon Lindley, Mark’s oh so good-looking best friend. And certainly, Cecelia has no idea she’ll be mixed up in a murder investigation because of this job.

Will Cecelia’s faith in God get her through all the trouble that lies ahead?

This ebook is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and iTunes.


Common Writing Contest Mistakes & How to Avoid Them P.2 - Guest Post by SM Ford #amwriting #nanowrimo @SMFordwriter

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