Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thursday 5: My Own Checklist

I said on Tuesday that I would list my top 5 known writing problems -- you know those little buggers that come up again and again in critique groups? Yeah, I haz them. So here's my own personal checklist of things to make sure I don't do. What are yours?

1. Smiling too much.
She smiled. "You know this one already."

2. Using the word "was" too often.
Passive voice! Passive voice!

3. Adverbs.
I let some stay, but I have to go through and get rid of far more. "Suddenly" is an especial problem.

4. Events that have no relevance in the scene or plot.
My husband has gotten good (a little too good, some might say) at pointing out scenes or elements that are extraneous.

5. Logic problems.
Sometimes I find lines that assumed something happened when it didn't. Theses are like little ticks seeding the page. Really hard to find and pull out. I leave little notes to myself in red when I find them and then go back and fix them. Some require rewriting whole scenes, and some (the worst) require changing a detail or story element.

Leave your known issues in the comments!


Tina Lynn said...

Oh, man, am I fan of adverbs. And passive voice. And assuming the reader knows stuff they couldn't possibly know. Yep. I need help. *hangs head in shame*

Simon C. Larter said...

1. Not destroying my nemesis soon enough.
2. Not ensuring my nemesis's destruction is complete.
3. Not undermining my nemesis's support system thoroughly enough.
4. Allowing my nemesis to talk smack about me in public.
5. People "looking" places all the time.

Wait. What were these issues supposed to be about?

Anonymous said...

Now, now, "was" is not always passive voice. :)

1. No nemesis.
2. Too much web surfing. *glares at this blog*
3. Adverbs--especially "suddenly".
4. Gettng absorbed in research and/or worldbuilding. (Depending on the genre.)
5. Irrelevant scenes.

Lt. Cccyxx said...

1. Lots of sighing, pausing, etc. by characters to convey stuff. I think it's true to life, but it can get tedious when written down.
2. Overuse of "like" and "just".
3. (similar to your #4) Taking way too long to get into the meat of a dialogue, like the BS small-talk you make for five minutes at the beginning of a meeting before you start talking business. That does not need to be in the scene.
4. Parentheses - too many!
5. Your #2: I use "was" way too much.

Those are the first five that come to mind - I am sure there are many more.

Anastasia said...

Suddenly, I find too many adverbs!

Travener said...

I find myself using the passive voice too much, like now. I am pretty ruthless about tracking it down as I edit and revise.

Jm Diaz said...

I don't make mistakes... They were already there when I starting writing!

"looked" is a big one for me... and tend to focus too much on the physical description of the eyes are doing.

Cynthia Reese said...

I have to agree: my biggest boo-boo is "looked" or "smiled." (It's a tie.) And I tend to write long, gangly sentences. And I tend to start sentences with and. Or but. Or then.

Oh, I'm just a hot mess, aren't I?? But I'm ruthless upon revising, and thank GOD for CPs!

Sierra Godfrey said...

I'm starting to get a little paranoid about "looking" -- that was never on my radar before, but I know what I'll be doing a Control + F for tonight! Gaah!

DL Hammons said...

Using 20 words when 15 will suffice. ARGH!!

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

"just" is a major problem for me along with a few body parts: eyes, hands, heads, lips/mouth. I also tend to overuse participial phrases, which apparently is a no-no.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, man, I feel you on all of these! All of them. For me, it's trying to take a word and turn it into a cool verb. It works once or twice, but not fifty million times... Ha ha!

Sierra said...

Love those, Don, Roni, and Elana. Elana, glad I could Twitter-guilt you into visiting :)

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I'm a whole day late. My reader is backed up... pardon our mess!

Anyway, my mistakes are numerous. The list is long: backstory, telling, overwriting, smiling, using cliches, using passive voice, being stu-pid....

Grr. TGIF.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Ah Amber, but at least you recognize them and that is most of the battle. "Hi I'm Amber and I have a list of mistakes."

Summer said...

Hi follower here...

I like this question, because finding my tics is a special, horrible joy of mine. I remember doing this strange exercise during Nano '09 where you used some sort of tool on World to "summarize" your novel into 25 words, 50 words, etc.

Mine basically looked like this:

"Jane nodded. Jane smiled. Jane nodded. Joe nodded. Jane nodded. Jane. Joe nodded. Jane sighed. Joe smiled. Jane nodded..."

You get the picture.
Also, I really need to work on my sentence variation. I'm not sure it's bad, but it FEELS bad, you know? All my sentences are too long and too complex.


Summer said...

Oh, and that should say "Word," not "World."

Sierra Godfrey said...

Hi Summer and thank you for following and commenting! You're very funny. :) Have you tried the Wordle is in the Friday Google reader Roundup...probably returns lots of nods and smiles :)

Lola Sharp said...

HI Sierra, new follower here, from my friend Tara's blog.

1) LONG, complex sentences.
2) 'then', 'looked', 'and', 'that'...Control F and I have a love-hate relationship.
3) plot holes/plot lines not lining up

Happy Weekend,

Sierra Godfrey said...

Hi Lola! Thanks for commenting and following! I love you already!

"that" is a terrible offender, for sure.

JEM said...

You inspired me to write my own five worst post! I'll be sharing my shame on Thursday, thanks for the necessary prod toward a more critical eye on my writing.

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