When I first started submitting my work to the public for critiques, I made a lot of amateur and completely fixable mistakes. I’m sure I still do, and will someday reflect on my writing from today with embarrassment.
Still, I write better now than before I learned not to do the following:
Writing Purple Prose
There was a time when I thought big words were the mark of good writing. I don’t know why I thought so; I never could get through any Faulkner.
And while I love words, and love English, and believe almost every word has a time and place to shine, I now know there is no need to showcase every word the English language has to offer in one sitting.
I spent a lot of time describing people in ways I thought made them seem elegant and beautiful; i.e, “he leaned his form against the stairwell.” I used annoying language like “flesh” and “lashes” and “tendrils” for hair. Shit almost gives me goosebumps when I see it, now.
I’ve since learned less is more, and “fancy words” have more impact when used in moderation.
Using Too Many Adverbs
I used to love me some adverbs. I felt the more description I could wring out of a sentence, the better the reader could imagine it. And while I suppose this is partly true, I didn’t seem to realize I could just use fewer but better words to get my point across more palatably.
I’m sure more sentences than not contained an adverb for every verb.
She smiled softly. He walked slowly. She cautiously reached for the flower and quickly plucked it. I cringed cringily.
Interrupting Action With Exposition
This is a more recent issue I’ve tried to correct in my million drafts of my current novel, though it still happens from time to time.
The novel requires a sense of setting to understand. There are things in the novel which are not things in real life, and it’s pretty tricky working in an explanation in a way that feels natural. I’ve found people do not like when the action is interrupted by a record scratch so the narrator can explain what’s going on, and the history behind it.
And I don’t blame the people who pointed this out in the early critiques of my novel one bit! It feels rather rude to be enjoying some literary violence, only to be plucked from the scene of flying viscera and deposited in a long-winded explanation as to how said violence came to be.
Perhaps this is why I can’t seem to get more than a few pages through the Silmarillion.
What are some mistakes you used to make in your writing?