While going back and forth between revising an old novel and writing a new one, I noticed a few things about my writing that really made me cringe. I find that more than a few mistakes I thought I had taken care of have slowly crept back into my writing. So I thought that by listing those mistakes here, it might help keep myself on the lookout for them, as well point them out to any aspiring writer reading this post.
It’s best to start with the grandest mistake off them all: Passive verbs. These things just keep popping up in my fiction (or should I say “pooping up” instead, since that’s what they do to a story?)
The solution: Reread every sentence in your story, pick the subject of the sentence and make sure that subject is performing the verb. Find things like the: “The gun was fired by Ralph.” and replace it with “Ralph fired the gun.”
Another huge and sort of related problem is the dreaded word “was,” in the the form of “was verbing.” I hate it. Or should I say: “I was hating it.” That’s how ridiculous it sounds sometimes.
The solution: Hit Ctrl-F type was and then replace every “was sitting” with “sat”. And do that for every “was verbing” you find.
Another problem I’ve run into lately is that I continuously combine actions into two sentences. “Jeremy picked up the comb, then ran the marathon.” Let’s stick with a basic Subject, Predicate, Object here, folks.
The solution: Separate the actions. “Jeremy picked the comb. He combed his hair, then ran the marathon.” Crap, I did it again. How about “Jeremy combed his hair in preparation for the marathon. He ran a personal best.” Don’t ask why he’s so concerned with his hair; this is just a silly example.
Another huge problem I have that is somewhat difficult to fix shows up when writing third-person where the main character is the only primary character in the story. I do this far too often: “Andy sat up in his chair. He crossed his legs. He picked up Jeremy’s comb. He looked out the window. He thought ‘I wish I was in that marathon.’ But then he remembered he’s not a runner. He sighed. He frustrated the editor and got the short story rejected.” Oh wait, that was me in that last sentence. Anyhow, you get the point.
The solution: Shake things up a bit. Don’t write like that. “He did this. He did that…”
Another problem is that I can sometimes find as many as three or four paragraphs in a row all starting with the same word, such as “Another.” Let me see if I can find an example of that…oh, lol.
The solution: This is one you can only solve by glancing over the document and looking at the first word of each paragraph. I joked about it right now, but it can make an otherwise great piece look amateurish, so be sure to look out for it.
So now that you’ve seen some of my common mistakes, I hope these examples can get the point across and help you and I both avoid some of these writing pitfalls.
What are some of you most common writing errors? What do you do to fix them? Leave a comment and let us know!