Monday, March 26, 2012

Picky, Picky, Picky

Let's face it...most of us who write also read.  I know my Kindle is bulging at the seams with books I've downloaded and want to sit back and enjoy, but this darn editorial eye of mine keeps me from enjoying my favorite pastime like I used to.

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 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*

I dislike:

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 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!

Okay...there are a ton more nit picks I have, but I'm going to stop before I become redundant and boring.  I'm not saying I'm not guilty of these writing faux pas as I've read some of my older work and see the very mistakes I despise.  The only thing I can promise is that future work will be better, because every day I learn something new from my critique partners and from reading work that has been well-edited and superbly written.  Just don't expect me to leave out all the 'ly' words because someone takes offense with them.  There are some cases that call for a description that fits no other way.  I'm working on minimizing...sort of like the new bra I just found.  :)



Thatsnews said...

In my day job I proofread my own work and the work of freelance contributors.

It's an old fashioned outfit, the typesetting department uses Apple Macs, which output to paper galleys and then are read and corrected with real ink red pens. Of course, we proofread on screen first. But the amount of errors we subsequently find using the paper galleys is amazing!

It's not just typos and the like. Someone recently bemoaned the fact that we no longer had capital punishment in schools. He meant corporal. Well, hopefully he did!

Then there's what is known as the grocer's apostrophe, where apostrophe's seem to get into all sort's of wrong place's. This error in afflicts some experienced writers.

The term grocer's apostrophe is based on the fact that you will often see a sign like: "Banana's, £1.00 a bunch."

Ginger Simpson said... someone who has lapsed into using the 'grocer's apostrophe,' I have no explanation why. I've just started putting the stupid ' in before almost every s at the end of a word. Highly annoying since I know I don't do it intentionally. My fingers are conspiring against me. I'm happy to know I'm not alone. :)

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