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.
The best advice I have received can be summed up in two words. Part 1 is about the first word…
Writing is like a muscle—it only becomes stronger if you work it out every day.
Bill Konigsberg, author of the best-selling novel Openly Straight and co-founder of my writing program, gave my class the best advice about how to become a better writer. He told us to make it part of our daily routine to write at least 350 words A DAY.
Up until I started the program, I was used to writing when I was inspired. So, the idea of sitting down and writing every day was daunting.
I tried to follow Bill’s advice—I really did. I made the attempt and sat in front of my computer every day. But, obstacles kept getting in my way when I tried to put words to paper.
Instead of writing, I was usually stopped by these inhibiting writing suspects: I was too tired (I had a long day at work), distractions (TV, etc.), or (my favorite) I needed to think about the scene more to figure out what to write next.
All sound valid, and can be valid. But, I noticed that once I stopped giving in to the obstacles…they lost their persuasiveness.
I might not write 350 words, but I do write every day. I’ve learned how to eliminate all distractions, and I can pickup where I left off easily. It took time (and determination), but it’s possible. Best of all—I can see that my writing is benefiting from this change.
It’s an obvious piece of advice, but it’s obvious for a reason—it works!
Keep writing every day, I believe in you.
My current work-in-progress’ status: ?
Writing. Work-in-progress. Revisions (plural). To anyone that isn’t a writer, these words might sound a little daunting. But, to a writer…these words are daunting.
The life of a writer is not easy. One of my favorite quotes (that I repeat often in my head) is:
“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.” – Lawrence Kasdan
Let that quote sink in. For the rest of your life. Now, with that in mind…who’s ready to write?!