Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One of the Mistakes A Fiction Editor Should Catch

Over the years that I've been a fiction editor, I've noticed several mistakes that keep happening with authors who are starting out in their careers. The first is the use of the 'ly' modifier. More often than not, the 'ly' modifier is nothing more than lazy writing, a quick way of writing something that requires little effort. Consider this example.

"Johnny was seriously mad."

The modifier 'seriously' tells the reader about Johnny's emotional state, but it's always much better to show that same reader what mad looks like.
So, the sentence is vastly improved with a rewrite that goes like,

"Johnny's fists were curled at his sides."

The exact wording is up to the writer, but any good fiction editor will pick up on the difference.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Johnny Was Angry

I was just working on a novel for a writer down in Texas and I noticed something that happens a lot in books that bears mentioning. Often writers will 'tell' the reader what the character is feeling rather than 'showing' them.
In other words, it's much better to write, "Johnny threw a dish across the room." Writing "Johnny was mad" is accurate enough, but it doesn’t supply any kind of mental image.