I compare my writing journey to a blossom striving to bloom into a fabulous flower as I continue to learn. Practice and commitment are the water and sunshine my flowers need to flourish. Over the last five years, I learned an enormous amount of writing DO’s and DON’T’s that help shape my manuscripts and thought I would share them on my blog. Reflecting back on my original self-published novel five years ago, I wish I could correct many of my errors. But that is part of growth!
Here is my list:
- SHOW DON’T TELL – Most important concept in writing (in my opinion) It means show the reader what the character is feeling instead of simply telling. An example:
-Sydney is happy. (This is TELLING the reader.)
-Sydney bounces on her toes with a toothy grin. (This SHOWs the reader that Sydney is happy)
-“I’m so upset.” Joshua said. (TELLING)
-Joshua threw his shoe across the room and stomped up the stairs. (SHOWING)
- USE ACTIVE VERBS – Keep your reader involved and avoid “passive” language. Using the active form of verbs moves the story and action.
-Lily was running toward her locker. (a continuous active tense)
-Lily is being told to hurry to class by her teacher. (passive form)
– Lily sprinted toward her locker (more ACTIVE and directs the character)
-The butterfly was flying over the bush. (continuous active form)
-The butterfly flew (or zipped, floated, hovered) over the bush. (more ACTIVE and direct)
- AVOID CERTAIN WORDS – This list is long – but my common words to edit out are: JUST, VERY, FEEL, THAT.
– I’m just too tired to run today. (omit JUST)
– I’m too tired to run today.
-“Did you know that Joey is running for Mayor?” (omit THAT)
-“Did you know Joey is running for Mayor?”
-I am very tired. (omit VERY)
-I am exhausted. (more descriptive word)
-I feel nervous today about the meeting. (omit FEEL – do not need to state how feeling – go back to SHOW DON’T TELL)
-I’m biting my nails and sweats beads on my forehead about the meeting today.
- DIALOGUE TAGS CAN BE OMITTED WHENEVER POSSIBLE IF OBVIOUS WHO IS TALKING. USE ONLY SAID OR ASKED IF TAG NEEDED.
This information was a change from all elementary and high school teaching. Authors and publishers do NOT want to see that a character SCREAMED or WHISPERED their dialogue. The nature of how the words are spoken should be inherent in the dialogue itself or in the action of the character’s movements. These examples were hard – and hope they make sense…
WRONG: “I disagree.” Beth yelled.
BETTER: “I disagree.” Beth’s face turned red as she stomped her foot and clenched her fists.
BEST: “You are wrong!” Beth said. (make the dialogue speak)
WRONG: Fred whispered, “Hello, noisy birds. How are you today?”
BETTER: Fred knelt next to the birdcage with his finger to his lips. “Shhhh. You little birds are noisy. Keep it down.”
- AVOID ADVERBS AND ADJECTIVES – Also against everything learned when young. Make your words stand alone without the modifiers.
-The adorable kitten snuggled on my lap. (OMIT adorable)
-The kitten snuggled on my lap. Her fur tickled my nose and she pawed my face. (Make the kitten adorable in other language- show don’t tell)
– He ran quickly to the front of the line. (OMIT quickly)
– He sprinted (jogged, hurried) to the front of the line.
So these are only a few writing tips to polish your writing and make it blossom. The list is endless, and I hope this is helpful. You can edit my writing with my own advice and find all of my errors! Practice makes perfect – or produces more words to edit.
Thanks for visiting Pat’s Chat!