Thursday, May 17, 2012

13 Ways to Beef Up Your Writing - Kayelle Allen

Are you looking for things you can do ways to make your writing stronger? Here are several easy steps you can take thirteen things you can do.

Keep in mind, editing is a science. There are rules in grammar, form, and for how to use content.

  1. Edit for passive construction, omitting words like am, was, were, be, being, been.
  2. Use an active verb rather than a conditional one (i.e., omit would/could). Example:
    He would do anything his lord asked, without quarrel or quibbling.
    He did anything his lord asked, without quarrel or quibbling.
  3. Substitute concrete terms for abstract ones. Thought vs mused, guess vs hypothesis
  4. Omit vague and abstract terms such as would, could, some, anything, about, only, better, less, etc.
  5. Look for long phrases and try to avoid them
  6. Avoid cliches like the plague. ;)
  7. Watch out for sentences that begin with conjunctions. (as, because, but, and)
  8. Count the number of times you use the words has, had, and have. Changing the tenses of the verbs around them can help you eliminate the need for them.
  9. Use online tools such as Pro Writing Aid  or the Savvy Author's Autocritter page Both are free.
  10. Make a list of your personal no-no words. These are words you use as crutch words to move you from one point to another as you write, but edit later. Go over your list before you submit it to your editor, critique group, or beta readers. What kinds of words? I've provided a link to a pdf I created for my critique group that contains 128. Feel free to pass it along to friends.
  11. Look for euphemisms and use new phrases. Is the sex your characters are having really a "dance as old as time" -- surely you can do better than that. Let these tired old phrases die a natural death and make up a new phrase.
  12. Ask yourself what the worst thing is that can happen to your character, and then focus on words that fit that description.
  13. Grab a new tool. Have you seen The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expressionby Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi? It launched this week, and I bought a copy for myself and one for a friend. It provides phrases, terms, and other descriptors you can use to convey character emotions. No author should be without this tool. When you grab your own copy, start making a list of phrases you use as well. Each of us has something good to offer. Make the most of your own ability and record these phrases in a workbook, notepad, or document on your computer for later reference.
There are times when any of these rules can and should be ignored. If you are writing a complex, well-spoken character, you may need his/her speech to contain larger words, or a timid character to use a more passive vocabulary.

Start with the end in mind. What is the mood of the story? Once you decide that, find ways to make your writing match it. It will "beef up" (pardon the euphemism) on its own. Use good tools, and take notes about how other authors handle scenes and situations. Find a passage of a book that you enjoy and rewrite it in your own words, trying to make it stronger. See if you can improve it. Then, take a passage of one of your previously published books, and try the same thing. Editing is a science, yes, but it's also an art, and art takes practice. Never stop trying.


Savannah Rose said...

Thank you for posting. Every once in a while I need a reminder.

Kayelle Allen said...

Thanks, Savannah. ;) Me too. I recently got this thesaurus, and it made me start thinking about ways I could improve what I write overall. Thought I'd take today to share.

Savanna Kougar said...

Always good advice and thoughts, Kayelle. Though, of course, I don't tow the editing line well, at times.

I was thinking of purchasing that book because expressing emotions is something I really work at with my heroines/heroes. However, the Kindle price seemed high. We'll see.

Rosanna Leo said...

Thanks Kayelle! My first ms, it was pointed out to me that I said the word "that" 585 times! We do all have our crutches...! :)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Well expressed and tightly written. << Grin >> I will cetainly get the Emotion Thesaurus.

Danita said...

I'm buying the Emotion THesaurus:)