It’s been a year since I published The Innocent Assassins, and almost a year since I published One Last Letter. Even within the past year, I’ve noticed my writing improve. I sat down at my computer the other day to read a few old manuscripts I typed up (even pre-TIA) and I couldn’t help but cringe at some of the common writing mistakes I used to make. The following list of writing mistakes are ones I’m determined to avoid in future writing, and ones I wish I’d read about in the past!
(1) Adverb usage.
Most of the time, descriptive words can replace adverbs and make the sentence stronger. It all goes back to “show, don’t tell”. Why write she said it “tiredly” when you could write she “paused and rubbed the throbbing temples of her forehead”. When adverbs are avoided, visualization becomes much more vivid for the reader.
(2) Using the character’s title when I could be saying “he”, “she”, or “(Character’s Name)”.
This post from K. M. Weiland discusses what I’m talking about. This means saying “the lady”, “the man”, “his mother”. I’m pretty sure in One Last Letter I used “the cowboy” a bit too many times. I realized I was including “the” nouns as a way to remind myself of the character’s role in the story, but the reader already knows the character’s role. They don’t need to read about “the cowboy” instead of Jesse or “he”.
(3) Writing dialogue verbs like “snarled” or “barked” or “hissed” instead of, well, “said”.
Not only does “said” work for every scenario, but some of the other verbs belong to animals instead of people. “Said” doesn’t call as much attention to itself and often flows better with the story. However, descriptive verbs can be (and should be!) used in writing, albeit every so often instead of on every page.
Again, these are just three writing mistakes I wish I’d avoided in my writing sooner. They are stylistic in nature and based on how I prefer my writing to be. What about you? Are there any writing mistakes you’ve caught in your writing over the years?