I recently had this quirky idea for my blog for my followers to ask me anything they wanted so they could get to know me better. The post, “Interview the Writer. Who Me? Yes You!”, brought out some great questions. One of them was: “What are some grammatical errors you still find yourself using/doing even though you know you shouldn’t?” and this really got me thinking.
As writers, we all have our little weak spots and I’ve identified some of my worst ones from first drafts:
- Exclamation marks – I use way too many when trying to emphasize a point and don’t realize until my wonderful editor raps my knuckles. What I’m actually doing is slowing down the dialogue instead of keeping it flowing.
- The word ‘that’ – this is probably my biggest sin of all. Put it this way, if I had a pound or dollar for each ‘that’ removed from my first draft, I’d probably have enough money for some retail therapy!
- Using too many similes beginning with ‘like’ – I’ve learnt the hard way about this. On the up side, I’ve found ways of expressing these in terms that make the story much stronger, and I’m still experimenting with it. Some similes work extremely well, especially if you can be really inventive, but too many weakens the writing.
- Starting a new paragraph for dialogue when it should be a continuation of the previous line – this is another sin my editor nags me about.
- Using hard line returns to start a new page at the end of a chapter – it doesn’t always work and using page breaks is a much cleaner way of doing it. This I learned from my beta reader. On my copy of the manuscript it all looked fine, but when I sent it to her she pointed out that several chapters ran into each other (oops). I’m glad I found out before an agent or publisher requested my full manuscript!
I know there are others, but they are minor compared with those listed above. The important thing is that I know what to look for and as I write the second book in my trilogy (I’m now well into chapter 4), I’m correcting myself as I write. I do try to switch off my inner editor particularly when the writing is flowing well, but I’m finding I’m automatically correcting myself.
This, I think, is a good thing. It means I’m learning from my mistakes which, I hope, will make me a better writer in the long run. It also means less nagging from my editor (a real plus) and a stronger base for the finished product.
I will continue to learn from my mistakes; I want my writing to be the very best it can be for my readers, they deserve nothing less!
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In bookstores 6-5-2012