Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to Identify Your Writing Problems

I was the ‘had’ queen. I always had to use that word. It was if I had thought it was the best thing since the invention of microwave ovens. What a horrible habit I had. My editor could attest to that. So, I finally got over my taste for the word and exchanged one habit for another. I started liking the word ‘like.’ It was like I had to compare everything. After all, it was like when one character acted like a fool. Or was that when I acted like a fool?
But how do you see that on your own? We are partial to our own work, we cannot be objective. More often than not, it takes a third party looking in to point out those silly gaffes. (Here, I could have said, “…point out silly gaffes like that.”) It’s all in word choice and being conscious of it. Can it be said differently? Can it be said better? How does it flow?
For me, things of that nature are best identified if they’re read out loud. You can hear the cadence. If it’s choppy, you know something needs to be changed. If it flows, there still a chance something needs to be fixed.
Practice makes perfect is a common cliché, but one that is very true. The more you write, the easier spotting those pitfalls become. When you’re stuck on a sentence, try writing it at least three ways. Read them all out loud and you’ll be able to tell which feels the smoothest. Here are examples:

Patrick darted down the road, running as fast as he could.
Patrick, running as fast as he could, darted down the road.
Patrick darted as fast as he could down the road.

You’re the judge here. Which of the three sounds best? Which is choppy and which flows?
The more you test yourself, the more you learn. The more you write, the more you learn. Repetitive? Yes, I’ve used the words 'more' and ‘learn’ too closely together. In some instances however, it’s on purpose. I meant to do that to make a point. Is this wrong? No. How do you know when it is and when it’s not? Practice. Write. Practice. Write. Then learn from past mistakes.

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