I’m far from perfect. And there are lots of areas I can be better (especially my impulse control when it comes to sweets). However, this post will be focused on the writing aspects I can improve upon.

There are a couple of reasons why I want to talk about that here. One is that for personal things I want to improve upon (damn you, sweet tooth! Damn you to hell!), I only talk about those sort of things here when it’s really important. Like if I’m really struggling with my choices in life, or if I want to talk about being on the spectrum. And at the moment, there’s nothing in my life I feel like talking about here at the moment. Second, this is a blog for a writer, so it makes sense that if I’m going to talk about improving stuff, it’ll be about improving my writing. And finally, while a lot of people I know in real life and even a few people online treat me as THE writing expert, especially when it comes to fiction writing, I’m far from an expert. If I were an expert, I’m pretty sure I’d have several bestsellers out by now, a few of them would have been made into movies already, and I’d be writing full-time in a nice three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath house (I have goals that I aim for).

Point is, as a writer there are areas I’d like to improve in, so I thought I’d list some of those and ask for your feedback. Many of you who follow this blog are writers, and have much more experience than I do. Perhaps you’ve dealt with some of the issues I’ve dealt with, and have some tips on how to deal with them. Anything’s possible, right?

1. I’m addicted to adverbs and gerunds. Now if you don’t remember most of the fancy terms from grammar class, adverbs are words that end in “ly” (wildly, musically, horribly) and gerunds are words ending in “ing” (ending, writing, killing). And I overuse them in my writing (see? Did it right there). One of the biggest criticisms I got from Rose, truth be told, is that I overuse them. In fact, I almost used “actually” instead of “truth be told” in that last sentence. And in the one before this, I started writing “nearly” before I switched to “almost.” And in that last one, “I switched” started as “switching.” And before that–oh, you get the idea!

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about how I had a similar problem with semicolons. I overused them, especially when they weren’t needed. Once I recognized the problem, I was able to correct it. But I have a feeling correcting these issues won’t come so naturally (see?). For one thing, while the semicolon issue was about fixing incorrect uses of punctuation, what I’m doing here isn’t technically wrong. These are speech patterns used everyday, you just don’t see them in a lot of fiction to the extent I use them. At least, not really good fiction. So one thing I’d like to do is know when to use adverbs and gerunds, and when not to use them.

2. Passive vs. active voice. I have a lot of trouble telling those two apart. Which is bad, because editors and publishers tend to prefer active voices in fiction, and I somehow always end up writing in passive voice. What’s the difference? Is there a video I need to watch or something that explains this? Help!

3. Writing snappier action. This is something I’ve taken steps to improve, but it’s still a work in progress. I tend to write these long sentences that illustrate a character taking a certain action. Example: “She stood, walked to the kitchen, and placed the glass in the dishwasher.” It’s a good sentence, but for fiction, this is better: “She put the glass in the dishwasher.” Boom! And if I’ve already established that the character is on the couch, it works even better. It shows the same amount of action with less words.

I’m trying to implement this sort of snappy action into my stories. Editors and publishers seem to like it, and when there are limits to how many words a submitted story can have, it’s helpful in reducing the word count. Still, it’s going to take some work. This, like the adverbs and gerunds and possibly the passive voice thing, are deeply ingrained habits.

No reason to add this photo. I just want to show you my new author profile pic.

4. Short story writing. I’ve written novels or works meant to be novels for most of my life. That’s what I mostly read, so that’s what I mostly wrote. I’ve learned how to write short stories and read plenty of them since high school and college, but I’m still not as good at them as I am at novels. Which is sad, because I’ve had many, many ideas for short stories and novelettes over the years. And since I’ve spent most of my time on novels, I’ve written only a few short stories, and not many of those have been published.

What I want to do is write more short stories and novelettes, get better at writing them, and get a few of those published. Is it necessary, especially since I prefer novels? No, but a lot of authors I like do great short fiction, so I’d like to do great short fiction too. Good news is, I’ve been reading a lot of anthologies lately, and I should have a bit of time after I finish the fourth draft of Rose. That should give me time to practice.

5. Not listening to my anxieties. All writers deal with anxieties, especially with how their work will be received. Sometimes I let them have too much control of my mind, and I start freaking out Just yesterday, I got panicky over whether certain characters in Rose might be called tacky stereotypes. After a lot of discussion online with friends and colleagues, I don’t believe they are, but the worry ate at me for a while.

The important thing for me is just to be a bit more confident in myself, and the stories I write. And I should work on techniques to combat those anxieties when they try to tear at me. Because at the end of the day, I’ve still written some decent fiction. And I won’t let doubt or fear keep me from improving it and making it into possibly publishable fiction.

 

Well, those are the things I want to improve on with my writing. What are your suggestions on fixing those issues? Let me know in the comments below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve only six chapters of Rose left to edit, so I’ll hopefully get started on the next one tonight. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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Comments
  1. Well, I love adverbs, gerunds, and passive voice, and yes, I have been criticized for these things. My readers, however, don’t care. All they care about is the story itself. They don’t care how each sentence is structured. If you’re doing genre fiction, I honestly don’t think those things matter.

    I found this article about the top 9 grammar mistakes in Fifty Shades of Grey, which has sold millions and has had a movie made off of it. (http://people.com/celebrity/fifty-shades-of-grey-the-top-9-grammar-mistakes/) Hopefully, this will help you feel better. 🙂

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to make writing neater and tighter, but I find sometimes this is our writer’s voice coming through, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

    I would also love to master writing shorter fiction. It’s a lot harder than it looks. I’d like to get one 30,000 word romance out this year. That would be awesome. Right now I average 60,000 words. For my pen name, I can successfully do shorter stories, but those are more thriller and horror, and I mostly read shorter stuff in that genre.

    I think the anxiety thing is the hardest hurdle to overcome. Even when you make a living at writing, that nagging sense of doubt is still at the back of your mind. You wonder, “Will this book flop? Will people decide not to buy this one? Will they think the characters suck? Will they think the plot is too predictable?” And worse, “Will they even remember me in the midst of so many other authors out there?”

    You’re writing is really good, by the way. I have no trouble getting into your characters, and personally, that’s the main thing I look for when I read. I hate reading a book and feeling like I’m outside of it. I want to dive in and immerse myself in the story, and the only way to do that is by being in the character’s shoes.

    • Thanks Ruth for the splash of positivity. I appreciate you thinking so highly of me and my writing. Perhaps it is my writer’s voice after all, just coming out and speaking naturally. Still, I would like to see if a few changes makes it come out better.

      And by the way, I’ll check out that article on 50 Shades when I have a chance. Thanks for giving me the link!

      • I’m going to get Rose when it comes out, though I expect it’ll take me some time to read. You know how slow I go. 🙂

        I do think we should try to improve with each story we write. I’d like to think my next book will be better than my last, so I get why you’re looking for ways to improve. I just don’t want you to be too hard on yourself because you have a gift for writing.

        I forgot to say this earlier, but I have a horrible sweet tooth too! Anytime chocolate is nearby, I’m in serious trouble.

      • Oh, I know! Someone left a box of chocolates in the office conference room today. I’m ashamed to admit that I ate more than one. And I’m glad you said you’d buy a copy of Rose. That’s at least one sale I can guarantee potential publishers, LOL.

        I’m just reacting to feedback from a couple of people, as well where I myself feel there’s room for improvement. If those changes don’t work, there’s nothing keeping me from going back to how I did things before. Which if you ask me is one of the beauties of being a writer.

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