Please (Please) Avoid These Common Writing Mistakes
by Erin Brown
After almost a decade in New York publishing houses, and now as a
freelance editor, I keep seeing the same writing, ahem, “issues”
cropping up again and again. Now you’re probably thinking, “But I
knoooooooooow all of these. Duh.” Well, maybe not “duh” as that
saying went out in 1987. However, the fact remains that I see these
concerns over and over and over, in manuscript after manuscript,
which leads me to believe that these lessons have not been imbedded
into every first-time author’s brain. So let’s review so that you
can save your revision time and energy for more important things,
like fixing “it’s” versus “its.”
**Note: in the following examples you will see that I spent a large
part of my holidays visiting relatives in small town Texas. A
pattern is not difficult to surmise. more...
The End of an
by Jennifer Paros
Once my youngest son and I were talking, and I suggested that at
school, instead of running around pretending on his own during
recess, he might try inviting another child to play with
him. I made this suggestion believing that connecting more to
children at school might help him feel better about going.
He responded: “I . . . don’t do that - that’s not my kind of thing.
That’s not what I do.”
by Cherie Tucker
We’ve already examined the mysteries of apostrophe placement, so
this is just a little reminder because we have so many holidays
coming up that totally confound advertisers.
You’ll see all sorts of interesting apostrophes floating about or
missing entirely as 2009 progresses, so let’s examine them one at a
First, the holiday is New Year’s Day (or New Year’s Eve). Even
if the words Day or Eve are left off, they are
implied, so you must use the apostrophe. The word Year is
not plural—we only get one new one annually.
by Jane Porter
It’s a new year, and appropriately I’m starting a new book even as I
do revisions on a book turned in late December. I’m most excited
about the new book because I’m not really writing it yet, just
thinking about it a lot, and thinking about what I’m going to write
is in so many ways more satisfying than what I’ll actually write
when I start the real writing next week.
Because real writing is hard, and the first draft of anything is far
less complex and interesting than the final version that goes to
publication. And the final draft has had so many layers and tweaks,
edits and revisions that its an entirely different beast than the
first time you sit down to write page one, chapter one. more...
Smooth the Action
by James Thayer
have a terrific scene figured out. Lots of action and suspense. We
sit at our desks, our hands on the keyboards, and picture the action
in our minds—each movement, step by step--and we write it just as we
see it. And we end up with: He drew his
legs in and rose from the chair, then took several steps to the
desk, and then reached out and opened his hand, then put his right
hand around the pistol’s grip and closed his fingers. He lifted his
arm and brought up the pistol.
We have written it frame by frame. Yet it’s smoother and just as
complete this way: He crossed the room
to get the pistol.
Action shouldn’t take longer to read about than the action would
take in real time. When it does, the writer may have broken down
the action into too many constituent parts. There’s too much
detail, such as: She put her hand on the
door handle, twisted it, and opened the door. Segments of
the action have been described, rather than the action as a whole:
She opened the door. more...
What Makes Writing Worth Doing?
by Paula Margulies
In “Manhattan,” one of my favorite Woody Allen movies, there’s a
wonderful scene at the end of the film where the main character,
Isaac, a neurotic, divorced television writer, finds himself at home
on the couch, holding a tape recorder. His teenage girlfriend Tracy
has left him, he’s blown a relationship with a woman his own age,
he’s lost his job and apartment, and he’s discovered that his fears
about his health were unfounded. In that final scene, alone and
hopeless, he turns on the tape recorder and asks himself, “What
makes life worth living?”