Monday, March 26, 2012
Picky, Picky, Picky
I wish I could read my own stuff with an editorial eye, but because I'm the originator of the work, my brain reads what it supposes should be there. Of course, that isn't the case with other people's writing. If you equate reading with eating, I've met a few brussel spouts I didn't like.
Part of the rite of passage in being as author is working with editors to hone your work to their finest. I'm discovering more and more books out there, especially by self-published authors that are laden with the most amateur mistake--mistakes that could have been caught by a second set of eyes. In my ten plus years of writing, I've learned so much for editors...in fact, more than I ever want to know.
I've discovered that applying rules is like using salt on your food. Too much is bad for you, but moderation is the key. I've tried to remember the writing guidelines that make the most sense to me and adhere to them. The problem: New rules crop up every day, and some of them even contradict what I thought I already knew. I've decided I have to be true to my own voice and pick and choose what works for me. We all have a unique style and we need to stick in our comfort zone...but within reason.
As far as my own nitpicks...I decided to share a few with you and see if you agree. Feel free to add your own in the comments. We all might learn something...that is if you have room in your already crammed brain for one more fact. *lol*
Too many tags. Often identifying the name of the speaker isn't even necessary because in most cases, there are only two people in the room. John and Mary have met, and if you've introduced them to the reader, no need to keep spitting out their names every other sentence.
Starting a book and having no idea what the time period or setting is. Yikes. What a waste of time to have to read backwards because you get deep into the chapter and have no idea if you're in the eighteenth or twentieth century. I love a story that gives me a big clue so I put myself in the right setting and know exactly where I am.
Sentences that begin with "it." This is a big nit pick for me. Usually there is no hard noun that precedes this pronoun so I find myself in predicaments where I have no idea with "IT" is. Which would you rather see at the beginning of a story? I think most uses indicate someone too lazy to search for a word that is a better fit.
It was a cold and cloudy day.
Steel-colored clouds blanketed the sky, and icy fingers clung to the north wind. Goosebumps peppered her pale skin...
Unnecessary phrases...- This is my newest quest to avoid. I've recently learned that using phrases like "She heard, she watched, she saw, she knew, are in most cases unnecessary if I've set a solid POV for the reader. Suppose you're reading from my heroine's perspective and I've locked you there. As a reader, you will know who is doing the seeing, hearing, watching and feeling, so some find it an insult to their intelligence to keep reminding them.
Resisting the Urge to Explain or RUE. We've already established that readers are pretty savvy and figure things out without the author pointing out the obvious. This is a continuation of what I discussed above, but take it a step further and consider the last few words in each sentence. If our hero is aiming a gun at the bad guy, and pulls the trigger...do we really need to say, "He took aim and shot at him"? I think the reader will assume who is getting shot. *lol* Consider the scene, then re-evaluate the closing words in each sentence. If you're using "at her, for him, etc.," you may not need to wear so much polish off your manicure. Continually explaining things to your reader becomes redundant and boring.
Repetition. As an author, I appreciate how difficult it is to recall what you've previously written. This is a big reason why you need to be part of a critique group or have beta readers to provide feedback. Nothing is more annoying than having the eye and hair color of the characters described in fifteen different chapters, or learning pertinent information again in chapter ten that you learned in great detail back in chapter three. I'm reading a book right now that I'm ready to throw against the wall because every chapter is a reminder of how red the heroine's hair is. I almost think I could cough up a furrball!