During my two month mentorship with Martha Brockenbrough, author of The Game of Love and Death. Martha highlighted a writing tick that I didn’t realize I had…
The tick was using just in my writing—a lot. Like fifteen times in twenty pages a lot. It was my writing crutch and I hadn’t even realized it (how embarrassing). But, once my eyes were opened to it—Oh goodness, did I see it.
For example, the below snippets were taken from the pages Martha Brockenbrough reviewed:
…Just please protect her…
…just make sure you look after yourself…
…I just wanted to be…
Can you see how just is not necessary?
It doesn’t enhance the sentence, it just sits there like an inedible garnish on a dish—Yuck!
As you don’t need that inedible garnish on your tasty plate, get that word off your compelling page…
…Please protect her…
…make sure you look after yourself…
…I wanted to be…
See? So much better once the crutch word has been vanquished from the sentence, don’t you agree?
If just isn’t your crutch word—you’re not off the hook yet! There are other adverbs that can weaken a writer’s writing.
Below is a list of the most over-used adverbs. Do you overuse any of them? (Be honest…)
- Kind of
- Could have
If you use a crutch word, don’t fret! Thanks to Control+F, you can easily track those adverbs down after you finish writing and replace them. Easy fix!
Last Piece of Advice: Don’t settle for an adverb modifying a weaker verb, when you can use a great verb. Your writing—and readers—will thank you!
Keep on writing!
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If you read The Best Advice I Have Received: Part 1, you might have already deduced what Part 2 will be about.
Either way, I am happy to share my second nugget of advice. The second best advice I have received is…
There’s a reason why writing programs have such a heavy dose of reading on their curriculum—it’s because it:
- Makes you a better writer because you can view well constructed stories and see what works.
- Improves your vocabulary (how supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!)
- Inspires your creativity.
- Provides motivation.
But, if you are anything like me, there are some misconceptions about reading while you write…
For me, my avoidance to reading was because 1) I feared that I would start to imitate whatever writer I was reading and my story would no longer be my own, and 2) writing already took so much of my time—why did I want to add another time consuming activity into my life? Preposterous!
To be honest, I was pretty stubborn with these beliefs—even after I heard multiple published authors talk about the importance of reading. Of course, I never let on that I didn’t believe what they were saying. I would nod and smile at their suggestion, but I was never swayed until I started picking up books again. I then discovered they were right!
Reading gives you a sense of how successful published novels are constructed. I am also constantly inspired by other writers and how they are able to create characters that the reader empathizes with. Each book I read is like my very own book report. The life of a writer, am I right?
I do understand that if you are just starting your writing career, you might have a similar fear that you will imitate the writer you are reading. If so, my suggestion is to read books outside of the genre you are writing. Or, try listening to audio books to hear how the prose sounds out loud.
Reading really is the secret ingredient to make your prose go to the next level. And, who knows…one day an aspiring writer might read your book to motivate them.
Corey Ann Haydu, author of OCD Love Story, gave my class the task of re-reading our WIP out loud at the beginning of the year (in the privacy of our own home, thank goodness).
I had to section my book into fourths so I would not go blue in the face, but…I found the assignment an invaluable learning experience that I wanted to share with you.
Reading out loud is a quick way to tell if a sentence sounds “off”. It’s like having a writing superpower.
How cool, right?
When reading my writing out loud, I can quickly pinpoint what’s working, and what is really-really not…even after I have re-read the sentence over in my head.
I am often amazed at the errors I find (missing words, weird sentence structures, etc.) No surprise, my writing is better with those errors caught.
Because of this, I have found that a writer’s best friend is the best listener they know. For me, it’s my dog, Mr. Murphy. He can’t say anything (mostly just tilts his head), and he doesn’t mind if I re-read a sentence once, twice, or (sometimes) three times to him.
So, find yourself a listener (it might even just be yourself) and get reading…out loud. You might be surprised at what you find.
I have been writing my whole life, but I only started writing about a year and a half ago (can it really be that long?!)
Even more of a shocker, I wrote my first draft of my current WIP about eight years ago. Of course, the first draft was not good—it was a mess. But, the main character kept popping up in my mind. She wanted her story told, and right this time.
So, I complied. I applied and got into a year-long novel program—and I started the novel writing journey. In one word, it was tough. But, it was also the biggest growing experience for myself and my writing. I worked alongside successful published authors and soaked in their feedback. I restarted my novel (twice) and I changed the main plot (more than I can count). I workshopped my pages and experienced the heart wrenching feeling of having (gulp) critiques. I learned how important feedback and workshopping is to a writer, and I—grew. My novel grew as well (in word count and construction) and my characters grew (ha!) on me even more.
I am just an aspiring author that is struggling through her first adventure into the writing and publishing world. I don’t know much, but I am more than happy to share everything I know.