List of Common Writing Errors and How to Fix Them

I am studying, The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing, by Bonnie Trenga.  This are my notes from her “Top Ten Writing Misdemeanors.”

it’s vs. its
The only time it’s should be used is if you can substitute the words “it has” or “it is” in the sentence.

who’s vs. whose
who’s means “who is” or “who has”
whose is possessive:  Whose book?  Whose car?

Cliches:  Here’s a list of cliches to avoid like the plague (see what I did there)

Similar Sounding Words
similar words-2.jpg

Hyphenated Compounds
A hyphenated compound come before what it is describing.  It doesn’t need to be hyphenated if it comes after what it describes.
1.  Example: The red-haired children jumped on the trampoline.
2. Example:  The children who jumped on the trampoline were red haired.

Fewer vs. Less

  1. Fewer is used when an item is countable.
    1. Example:  There were fewer pencils in the drawer than before the party.
  2. Less is used when and item is uncountable.
    1. Example:  There were less stars visible in the city sky than the country sky.

Generic Vocabulary & Phrases the Bore Readers

Generic Phrases:
is able to
there is
it is
this is

Generic Vocabulary
people
man
thing
good
interesting
different

More Writing Resources

Microsoft Word - VagueWordsList.doc

Wordy Writing

I am studying The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing by Bonnie Trenga.  These are my notes from her chapter on Wordy Writing.

How to Tighten Up Wordy Writing

Take the wordy phrase and convert it using the formula below.

More Writing Resources

Wordy Writing Subs-2

Super Duper, Extremely Lengthy Sentences

I am studying the book, The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing, by Bonnie Trenga.  These are my notes on long sentences and how to correct them.

Long Sentences and How to Correct Them

  1. Instead of using and or but, create a new sentence by substituting the following words:
    1. And: “in addition,” or “also,” (also should be added within the sentence)
      1. Incorrect:  The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together, and he dusted off the twigs.
      2. Correct:
        1. “in addition”- The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together.  In addition, he dusted off the twigs.
        2. “also”- The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together.  He also dusted off the twigs.
    2. But:  “however
      1. Incorrect: The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together, but he forgot to pick up some more twigs.
      2. Correct: The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together.  However, he forgot to pick up some more twigs.
    3. What out for use of these words often:
      1. Incorrect:  The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine which was so big he had a hard time flying because he was a small bird, when realized after he began stitching together his nest that he forgot to pick up some more twigs.
      2. Correct: The small bird had a hard time flying to his nest with his mouth full of heavy twine.  After he began mending his nest he realized he forgot to pick up some more twigs

Long Sentences

  1. Find the MAIN IDEA and make it your 1st sentence.
  2. An em dash announces a break in thought.
  3. Keep the subject next to the verb, separated by no more than one extra thought.
    1. Incorrect:  The bird, with a mouth full of twine, who was small, had a hard time flying to his nest.
    2. Correct:  The small bird, with a mouth full of twine, had a hard time flying to his nest.
  4. Place no more than three ideas in a sentence.
    1. One Idea:  The small bird flew to his nest.
    2. Two Ideas:  The small bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of heavy twine.
    3. Three Ideas:  The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of heavy twine and he barely made it to his nest.

More Writing Resources

Modifier Placement-Help Please!

Did you know modifiers can be misplaced, dangle, and squint?  Writing is hard.

In the book, The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier:How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing, Bonnie Trenga provides a lesson on how to make sure our modifiers are utilized correctly.  Here are my notes from that chapter.

Modifier Placement

Beginning of a Sentence:  Keep the noun next to the modifier.

  1. The noun should come right after the comma
    1. Dressed in a purple gown, the elephant walked onto the stage.
      1. Noun:  elephant
      2. Modifier:  dressed in a purple gown
    2. Clues that a misplaced modifier begins a sentence:
      1. a past participle (past tense verb) begins the sentence
        1. Incorrect:  Dressed in a purple gown, the stage was bright that the elephant walked onto.
        2. CorrectDressed in a purple gown, the elephant walked onto the bright stage.
      2. as, like, or unlike begin the sentence
        1. Incorrect:  Unlike the ring master, the elephant walked onto the bright stage, who waited in the shadows.
        2. Correct:  The elephant walked onto the bright stage, unlike the ring master who waited in the shadows.
      3. if, it, or there occur after the comma
        1. Incorrect:  The ring master raised his arms, it was quiet.
        2. Correct:  The ring master raised his arms, the room became quiet.
        3. Better:  The room quieted as the ring master raised his arms.
      4. an -ing word begins a sentence or is the 2nd or 3rd word following a word in the chart below:
        1. Incorrect: After snapping his whip, the elephant bowed.
        2. Correct:  After snapping his whip, the ring master got the elephants attention and she bowed.
        3. Better:  The elephant bowed when the ring master snapped his whip.
          Words that Often Precede a Misplaced Modifier that Ends In

Middle/End of a Sentence

  1. Clues that a modifier has been misplaced within a sentence:
    1. a phrase begins with that or who
      1. who: describes people
        1. Incorrect: The ring master directed the elephant, who was wearing a top hat.
        2. Correct:  The ring master who was wearing a top hat, directed the elephant.
        3. Even Better:  The ring master, wearing a top hat, directed the elephant.
      2. that: describes things and animals
        1. Incorrect:  The elephant followed the ring master’s directions, that was wearing a purple gown.
        2. Correct:  The elephant that was wearing a purple gown, followed the ring master’s directions.
        3. Even Better:  The elephant, wearing a purple gown, followed the ring master’s directions.
    2. a phrase that could start with that or who, but doesn’t
      1. Incorrect: The ring master the elephant followed was tall and handsome.
      2. Correct:  The ring master who the elephant followed was tall and handsome.

Other Resources

More Writing Resources
Grammar Girl:  Misplaced Modifiers
Grammar Bytes:  Rules for Finding and Fixing Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

Making the Perfect Pitch Notes

I am currently reading “Making the Perfect Pitch” written by Katharine Sands.  Each chapter is written by a different literary agent and provides a great overall feel about what agents are looking for in your query.

I will spend the next few weeks posting notes from things I learn in each chapter.

Enjoy.

Katherine Sands is a literary agent with Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency.

perfect-pitch

Disclaimer:  This book was published in 2004 so some agents may no longer be practicing, but the information provided is still pertinent to today’s market.

 

 

 

Pardon the Interruption

index

What does an interruption cost?  According to an article written by Steve Pavlina, even a small interruption can:

      1. Delay work by 20-30 minutes
      2. Increase stress
      3. Create greater room for error
      4. Can even kill a task completely

My family is constantly interrupting me when I write, no wonder I can only finish one paragraph in 45 minutes.  I want to become  a more effective writer.  My time is precious and I want to make it count, so how do I do that?

“Highly productive people know the importance of working in uninterrupted blocks of time with good focus and concentration.  Consequently, they take steps to guard against interruption…” -Steve Pavlina

I want to become an author one day, I want my romantic story to sit on a shelf at the local bookstore, and to have people lose themselves in its pages for a a few hours of their lives.  But, unless I continue to write, that dream will never reach fruition.  I can no longer afford to wait for “writing time” to present itself, I must become proactive, this is my Third Act.

1.  When will I write?
1:00-2:30 Monday-Thursday

2.  Where will I write?
My living room recliner, I like to write with my feet up.

3.  How will I cancel out noise?
I have a playlist of Piano Guys songs, yummy.  I will plug in my earphones and hit play.

4.  What steps will I take to guard against interruption?
The time slot I have chosen is when I have only one kid at home, and it’s her nap time.  Happy dance!

Tell me your plan.
How will you guard against interruption and get your book written?

Crutch Words Become Active Verbs

Watching is just a really boring verb.  If you cut it, you can almost always use a cooler verb that paints a clearer picture.”- Naomi Hughes

Crutch words, we all have them, the problem is they are different for each writer, so how do we identify them?  What is a crutch word?  It’s our writing tic, the words we overuse.  In this post I will teach one way to identify crutch verbs and how to replace them with words readers will find more interesting.

Step 1:  Identifying Crutch Verbs
My go-to word is “back.”  My characters walk back, go back, look back, it’s plumb crazy, and honestly, boring.  How did I identify my crutch word?  I built a wordle at Tagxedo.  Just click “create” then add the text of your entire novel, or go chapter by chapter, it’s up to you.  Here’s a list of crutch words writers tend to repeat from Writers Helping Writers (scroll down until you find the PDF titled “Crutch Words).

This is embarrassing, but here is my wordle for my 7th draft of my work in progress.  What crutch words do you see?

Draft 7

My stomach just did a flip flop, I’ve got a lot to work on, but it appears I have fixed my “back” problem.  Now I will address the following crutch words:  looked, walked, and turned.

Step 2:  Replace Crutch Verbs with Active Verbs
1.  Use the “find” feature on your word processor and look up one of your crutch words.
2.  Refer to the Writers Helping Writers List to find another, more exciting verb and use it to replace your crutch word, see my examples below.

Example 1:  Looked
Crutch
“I stayed with him, watching the sun disappear from the sky and when I looked back to where he had been, he was gone and I was alone.”
Active
I stayed with him as the sun disappeared from the sky.  After the last sliver of light sunk below the horizon, I glanced in his direction, but he was gone, and I was once again alone.”

Example 2:  Walked
Crutch
“Behind her walked the surfer and I felt my heart fall straight into my gut, right on top of the cheerios I had just eaten.”
Active
“Behind her the surfer sauntered.  My heart fell into my gut, right on top of the cheerios I had eaten for breakfast.”

Example 3:  Turned
Crutch
“We had reached my door when I turned to look at him, curious if he really meant what he was saying.”
Active
“We had reached my door when I peeked at him, curious to see if he really meant what he was saying.”

May we all tighten our writing and make it more succinct, keeping our readers reading instead of getting hung up on overused words.

Do I “Tell” Too Much?

show-tell

“Show vs. Tell,” that’s a phrase we hear a lot on the writing circuit, but as a new writer it can be hard to identify those places where we need to show more.  Here are two easy steps to help you “show” your story, giving your readers a chance to step inside your pages.

Step 1:  Do a search for emotion-themed words
I recently finished an excellent book called Deep Point of View by Marcy Kennedy where she recommends doing a search for “emotion-themed” words in your manuscript.  At the end of this post you will find a list of words you can search for in your work in progress.

Step 2:  “Show” the emotion instead of “Telling” the reader about the emotion
Now that you have identified your “emotion” words, what do you do with them?  How do you turn them into something a reader can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell?  I like to use the Emotional Thesaurus.  Here’s an example of how to turn a “show” into a “tell.”

  • Telling Sentence:
    1. “Jeremy’s forearms flexed as he removed the saddle from off my horse.  I was so in love with him.”
    2. I “told” you Sarah was  in love with him.  Let’s see how I can “show” you she is in love with him.
  • Identify the Emotion:  love
  • Identify What Love Looks Like (This is where the Emotional Thesaurus comes in handy.  It has many examples, I just chose three for the sake of convenience.)
    1. Physical Signals
      1. hard to breathe
    2. Internal Sensations
      1. fluttering feeling in the stomach
    3. Mental Responses
      1. unaware of surroundings
  • Now I can write a sentence to “show” how Sarah feels about Jeremy:
    1. “Jeremy’s forearms flexed as he removed the saddle from off my horse.  The muscle definition on his tan arms caused my stomach to flutter, and I had a hard time drawing a breath.   Stepping out of his way, I tripped over a grain bucket.”

Wasn’t that fun!  Maybe he’ll reach for her hand, or even better, she’ll fall and he’ll catch her with those sexy cowboy arms.

Another great resource I would recommend is a video clip by Ellen Brock on “Showing vs. Telling.”  Ellen is a freelance editor with a great series of short messages on YouTube for writers.  I recommend giving them all a view, she is A-mazing!  Another book by Marcy Kennedy I recommend is, Showing and Telling in Fiction.

Don’t forget to check out the list of “emotion themed” words below.

Happy writing!

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List of Words That “Tell” Emotion

adoration, afraid, agitated or agitation, alarmed, amazed or amazement, amused, angry or anger, anguish, annoyed or annoyance, anticipation, anxious or anxiety, ashamed

bitter, bored

calm, cautious, cheerful, comfortable, compassion, concerned, confident or confidence, conflicted, confused or confusion, contempt, curious or curiosity

defeated or defeat, defensive or defensiveness, denial, depressed or depression, desire, desperate or desperation, determined or determination, disappointed or disappointment, disbelief, disgust or disgusted, disillusioned, dismayed, disoriented, distrust, doubt or doubtful, dread

eager or eagerness, elated or elation, embarrassed or embarrassment, enthusiastic, envy or envious, excited or excitement, exhausted

fear, frustrated or frustration

grateful, gratitude, grief, grumpy, guilt or guilty

happy or happiness, hateful or hatred, helpless, hesitant, hopeful or hopeless or hopefulness, horrified, hostile, humiliated or humiliation, hurt

impatient or impatience, indifferent or indifference, insecure or insecurity, insulted, interested, irritated or irritation

jealous or jealousy, joyful

lonely or loneliness, love

mad

nervous or nervousness, nostalgic or nostalgia, numb

optimistic, outraged, overwhelmed

panic, paranoid or paranoia, peaceful or peacefulness, pity, proud or pride

rage, regret or regretful, rejected, relaxed, relief or relieved, reluctant or reluctance, remorse or remorseful, resentful or resentment, resigned or resignation, restless, revulsion

sad or sadness, satisfied or satisfaction, scorn or scornful, self-conscious, shame, shock or shocked, skeptical or skepticism, smug or smugness, somber or somberness, sorrowful, spiteful, stressed, stunned, surprise or surprised, suspicion or suspicious, sympathy or sympathetic

terror, tired

uncertainty, uncomfortable, unease

vengeful

wary or wariness, weary, worry or worried

Story Structure Revisted

I just completed the 5th revision of my novel, “Under Western Skies.”  It was intense as my critiques recommend moving a few things around in the story.  Here it is now, printed and divided up by percentages according to the elements suggested to create a compelling story.

Next up, I get to go through these sections and make sure they will be able to cut the mustard in the literary world.

Wish me luck!

For more information on the elements of story structure click