Monday, August 19, 2013

How Important is the Writing Itself?

We talk all the time about character, plot and world. But I was thinking about the last bunch of books I read and wondering about what it was that made the difference for me between LOVE IT and EH. What I realized surprised me. If the writing itself was beautiful and seamless I was able to dive into the story and characters and world so much easier. If there were simple errors that I've been taught I should avoid in my own work, I had a harder time and found myself pulled out and ultimately enjoyed it less. 

Here are just a few tips for things to look for when you revise that might make the difference for your reader:

  • Avoid cliches. Particularly when using comparisons like metaphors. I know it's tough, but time spent thinking of fresh ways to say things really goes a long way.
  • Vary sentence and paragraph structure. Don't start every line with I. Make sure the page is a mix of dialogue and description. It makes a difference!
  • Don't repeat yourself. Find the best, most unique way to say something and trust us to get it. If it's important, spend more time and detail on it than other places. 
  • Lose the helping verbs. Don't be passive. Make everything you can active and in the moment. She had followed the footsteps should be She followed the footsteps. 
  • Search and destroy. Find the words you use too much, locate superfluous adverbs and adjectives and see if they are needed. If there are two or more in one place, pick one. 
Will you miss some things? Heck yeah! You're human and that's why we have other eyes besides our own looking at our work. But we should get our work in it's best form before putting it out there. It's worth the effort. 

What distracts you about writing when you're reading a book?


  1. Great tips. Pacing for me is important and keeping the story moving. If it doesn't, I tend to lose interest and stop reading. Also too much telling turns me off.

  2. Good tips. I find awkward dialogue is one of the most off-putting things for me lately.

  3. Cliches are big distraction for me, and I hate it when writers constantly have the characters call each other by name. "Well, Don, it's this way." OR "Gee I don't understand what you mean, Don." Arrrrg!

  4. Maybe what you're describing is what I think of as flat writing. It doesn't engage, the language doesn't sing, it doesn't pull me under and not let me go. Basically I want a book to drown me with its prose!

  5. Bad writing is distracting, even if it's just a small typo. I'm happy if I don't even notice the writing, I don't want to be taken out of the story.


  6. Mistakes pull me out of the narrative, too. But I find that if those mistakes occur after I'm already hooked by the world, plot, and characters, I'm more tolerant.

    Thanks for the list! I need constant reminding...

  7. Better writing always pulls me in but the story has to be there. if nothing is happening, even the best writing won't keep me. But I've stopped reading quite a few books and I'd say it's always a combination of the writing and plot combined with what I like. I'm sure others kept reading.

  8. Yes, yes, and yes. I just gave up on a book the other day because it was repetitive and full of cliches. The plot and characters were relatively interesting, but those factors got to be too distracting.