Monday, 4 February 2013

Writing tips

I want to make a list of the tips I have picked up along the years while I have been writing and editing. Some or all of these will probably be known to you, and you might be thinking, DUH! But I'm listing them anyway, as a reminder to myself and for those who might not be aware of one or two and need the advice for self editing.

1. When someone turns to face a character, it's best to say something like swirled around rather than twirled.

2. Avoid saying: I looked. I heard, where necessary. For example.

I looked at my vanity table that was on my right. Instead try: The vanity table on my right....

I heard echos in the other room, could be: Echos from the other room...

3. Avoid redundant sentences: I ran fast to get to the house quicker. It's obvious why, if someone is running home. Instead it could be: I ran home as fast as I could.

4. Avoid dangling participles. Basically they are sentences that make a character sound like they are doing too many things at once. For example: I opened the door, running to the bed. A character can't open a door and run to the bed at the same time, so it's: I opened the door and ran to the bed, or I opened the door, ran to the bed. This way you avoid the gerunds too, which are verbs ending in "ing", which is what some writers opt for to avoid "and" and "then."

5. Either have an exclamation mark after dialogue or a tag saying he or she yelled/shouted. Best not to include both, although I do see it being done in major published books, so it may not be a biggie. Or better still, show the expression through actions.

6. Show not tell. Tell: I was nervous. Showing is obviously: I had butterflies in my stomach; my palms sweated.

7. Avoid info dumping in the first chapter. Although if it's a must, which it was for one of my drafts for my book to ground the story, explain the main facts in a paragraph or two only.

8. Try and have an opening hook for first chapter, too. Perhaps not a biggie, in my opinion. I have read lots of books without a major hook. As long as you have a great blurb and story you will have most likely reeled readers in. :)

9. Start your book not from where you are filling the kettle from the sink, but where it is boiling. Great quote from a writer that I agree with. I think it could also be from about to boil. So many writers try to give too much backstory first when a characters life is better portrayed and revealed via their actions and how they cope with events.

10. Avoid cliche's. Some are fine, but some are too obvious ... like plagued her thoughts ... but even that could probably be said once depending on what context.

11. Avoid cheesy lines in romance, especially lines that involve electricity. That would just create literal sparks and maybe even electrocution. The description began in Twilight and now writers of this genre, including me have opted for this bizarre description. I have tried to avoid it. I think tingling says it all. Also couple confessing their love for each other too quick is also lackluster. Readers want some suspense first, with at least a, will they won't they question arising throughout half the book.

12. Dialogue that have tags, need a comma after it. Dialogue with an action needs full stops. Including. He laughed. She chuckled. As a person can't laugh and talk at the same time. Also avoid too many tags when there are only two people talking. Just keep to describing their actions and keep to he said, she said mainly with the dialogue in general. When we read a book, the brain begins to not notice the he said she said tags, so it runs a lot smoother.

13. Try not to over describe and babble.

14. Try not to throw in unnecessary scenes to create drama. Try and keep to the main events.

15. Be aware in what context you use further and farther, whom, who. Also lay is past tense of someone lying down. So: I lay still as the wind blew across the lawn. Present tense would be: I lie on my back. Lay is also used for objects: I lay the vase on the desk.

16. Learnt, Knelt and so on are British spelling. Americans prefer: Learned, Kneeled.

17. Avoid passive sentences. I was jumping over the wall could be: I jumped over the wall. I was about to leap over the wall when someone shouted. Could be: Someone shouted as I tried to jump over the wall.

18. Avoid hurriedly, hurrying types of words,active would be: hurried.

19. Correct context of words such as wilting and swirling is: The wilted apple tree. Otherwise it sounds like the apple tree is wilting there and then. The swirl  images on the wall, not the images swirling on the wall, unless they are actually moving at that current point.

20. He took off his shirt. She took off her shoes need to be: He took his shirt off. She took her shoes off. I have noticed big named writers still write it as, he took off his shirt, so again, it might not be a biggie. But it is correct English, and you might be a stickler for correct usage of the language.

Will add more if I recall any.

Here is a mistake I found in Twilight recently. It's from the preface. I'm surprised I hadn't noticed it before, but I guess I didn't know as much about editing back then. It's also easy to miss and sort of makes sense without being structured correctly.

Here it is:

I stared without breathing across the long room.

No one commented on what seemed inaccurate, so I will explain. It sounds like she is staring across the room without blowing her breath across it. To be clearer and conveyed in proper English, I think it would be: I stared across the room without breathing, or I held my breath as I stared across the room.

I could be wrong, but it seems incorrect.

Please feel free to post any tips you have learnt or learned ;)

Thanks :)


  1. Hey thanks for following Gwen and hey I can see your face haha... Di you have any more tips to add and could you notice what was wrong with that sentence?

  2. Now that I've read this, I will read through the rest of my ms so you hopefully won't find any of these. ;) LOL
    Great tips. Thanks partner

  3. Thanks for finally following Laurie. How have you hidden your followers? Are you not going to try edit that line from Twilight, or do you think it sounds fine? I suppose it is. The structure could have been cleaner...