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  1. #1
    Senior Member Cheryl Morton's Avatar
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    Cardinal sins in writing

    Being the novice that I am to writing, could some of the more experienced writers and editors describe some of the big bad no-no's in writing? Someone mentioned that editors hate repetition. What else do they hate?

    Thanks,

    Cheryl



  2. #2
    Senior Member Kyle Anderson's Avatar
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    In my experience, yes, repetition is not something desired by editors or publishers. I just had a critique saying that my novel lost focus a few times and went off into other directions, which I kind of agree/disagree with. So, I guess staying focused on your vision is a good tip. As a reader, I hate when writers start every sentence with "the," which could fall into the repetition category. I personally don't care for fluff writing, I like stripped down and honest writing. That's just a personal thing though.

  3. #3
    Aver0n 2o11
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    From a reading public point of view, I hate being lectured/preached to in the work that I am reading (unless it's an academic essay - that's a different story). I know that writers will impose their views into the world of their story, that's an inevitable part of writing but I don't like for it to be brought to my attention all the time: racism, sin, etc...
    Last edited by Aver0n 2o11; 06-11-2011 at 02:35 AM.

  4. #4
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    My list of writing sins:

    Poor grammar, spelling, or incomprehensible syntax

    Repetition

    Micro-description of movement (We don't need to know where the character was standing before he entered the room, how far he walked, or what he was doing with his hat--unless the hat is significant to the plot/story.)

    Expository dialog (You can also think of this as "soap-opera" dialog: "Darling, you've finally returned after being presumed dead for 7 years in the South American jungle. Unfortunately, I had a love child by your best friend, Seth, who betrayed you by putting a bomb in your plane.")

    Inconsistent use of tenses

    Cliches

    Too many flashbacks and backstory

    Dream sequences

    Deus ex machina endings or solutions (Divine intervention or coincidence that solves everything.)

    Exclamation points!!! (I've seen more than one agent say you should have no more than one exclamation point per novel!)

    Characters who squeak, hiss, croak, cough, bark, snarl, and constantly express their words in any way other than "said." Sorry, this is not a zoo.

    Look, looked up, looked down, looked around--People do more than "look" at things in stories, but this is the favorite way of indicating a character's interest for newbie writers.

    That's about all I can think of at the moment.

    Jeanne

  5. #5
    Senior Member Frank Baron's Avatar
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    No-nos vary somewhat with the territory. Not following posted guidelines would likely rank at, or very near the top. If a writer can't, or won't, seek out and follow guidelines, they've got a couple of strikes against them before they even take the bat off their shoulder.

    Newspaper and magazine editors place a premium on timely delivery of good copy (or used to -- but that's another rant). They have nightmarish deadlines, esp. the newspaper folk. Nothing makes them crazier than a piece that's not delivered on time and then has to undergo major rewriting. Even book publishing, which generally moves at a sub-glacial pace, has deadlines which Must Be Met.

    You can safely assume that all editors, whatever the media, are overworked, underpaid and undervalued. They dislike anything that wastes their time. They tell horror stories at get-togethers about writers suffering from Golden Word Syndrome, those self-proclaimed literary lions who resist any and all editing suggestions. (Self-publishing is just the ticket for them. Let them languish in the lowest rungs of Amazonian Hell.)

    Editors appreciate writers who respect them and accept their expertise. That doesn't mean that all editorial suggestions must be followed - but all should be carefully considered.

    They are not impressed by resumes which include your own blog, a letter to the editor of the local weekly, or testimonials of your literary prowess from Ms Vickers, your Grade 11 English teacher. They nearly appreciate receiving poorly-spelled, ill-thought-out queries, proposals, articles and manuscripts because they take little time to reject. Which leaves them more time to peruse those with promise.

    So, if you want editors to be your new BFFs, follow guidelines, appreciate their time and expertise and deliver them interesting, well-written, reasonably grammatically-correct material in a timely manner. And you MUST resist the urge to call/email daily for updates, or with new suggestions, or - Perry White forbid - just to chat.

  6. #6
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    1. Avoiding the word "said."

    2. Not proofreading.

    3. In general, using adverbs.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Zoe Saadia's Avatar
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    I love this thread! Thanx for the various advice

  8. #8
    Rae Morgan
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    Too much description. An otherwise good book was spoiled for me by paragraphs of description about the countryside. The author had obviously visited the region and was determined to let everyone know it. Subsequently, it ended up reading more like a travelogue than a suspense novel.

  9. #9
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    Opined Zach, "Avoiding the word "said."

    Kitty burped, "And yet we are also advised to keep it clean and simple: Stick with "said."

    "Simplicity is the rule in attributives. Many writers try to think for the reader by replacing “said” with words like grunted, growled, demanded, bellowed, cooed, roared, squalled, and simpered. If the tone of the dialogue is not immediately apparent, rewrite the dialogue and not the attributive.

    This goes double for adding adverbs like belligerently, arrogantly, haughtily, angrily, coquettishly, happily, slavishly, and jokingly. Before using any of these or others, ask yourself how someone would sound if they spoke in that manner. When the answer comes back, “I don’t know,” rewrite the dialogue until you do.

    Many writers rebel at the idea of “he said, she said.” They complain of the blandness and they are right. “He said, she said,” is transparent on purpose. The writer’s job is to put the dialogue into the mind of the reader (2). With too much information, readers have no room to make the story their own. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in comparing films to novels, “There are tens of thousands of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, since each reader has to cast, costume, direct, and design the show in his head (3).” The simple attributive makes for a livelier scene.

    http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/attributives.aspx

    There are some interesting comments here:

    http://forum.fanfiction.net/topic/2872/24084200/1/

    *_*

  10. #10
    Senior Member Cheryl Morton's Avatar
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    These are very helpful suggestions. Keep them coming!

    Cheryl

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