Writing Quirks and Illuminating Thoughts
I’m often asked about my writing habits, and I’m equally fascinated by the writing habits of others. Some write daily for a specific amount of time. Some write when they have an extra fifteen minutes here or there. Others write only late at night or early in the morning. Still, others write only on weekends.
Personally, I only write during a full moon, with a glass of Malbec, and a box of chocolate truffles. Just joking! The point is, to write. There’s no wrong or right time to write. Each must do what is best for them. My best writing time is in the morning after a hot cup of coffee. I usually write until noon, take a break to run on the treadmill, do weights, or crunches, depending on the day of the week, then I’m back at it until at least 4:00 PM. After that, I squeeze in whatever additional time I can spare. Now of course, this is on a good day when all the stars in the universe align.
Quirks are not relegated to best time practices. I’ve got several quirks in my writing arsenal and I’m not afraid to share them. I’m an open book y’all. (See what I did there?)
My biggest pet peeve is a long, boring sentence. A twenty-five-word sentence can easily be broken up into several sentences. Smaller sentences are easier on the eyes and the brain, if they’re not choppy, that is. Running a close second is the word salad sentence. A sentence of roughly twelve or so words that can be pared down to nine or eight or even six. When I edit my books, I’m constantly on the look-out for overlong sentences to trim. I’ll try everything in my vocab bag of tricks to make a sentence more concise. I cut out redundant words, eliminate busy words, weed out flowery words, and shave multiple words down to one. I like to make my writing as tight as it can get without sacrificing clarity, excitement, or word power.
A few hours later, she was woken up by an icy chill because the temperature in her room dropped which meant she had spectral company, so her breath blew out in a soft cloud, as the old Native American couple materialized, the most popular of visitors.
Now read this tidied up version. I broke one long sentence up into three separate sentences. It not only sounds and reads better, but I axed eleven words too.
A few hours later, an icy chill woke her. The temperature drop meant spectral company. Her breath blew out in a soft cloud as the old Native American couple materialized, the most popular of visitors.
I put my passages on the chopping block too. I’m on the hunt for wordy prose to ax.
Abigail twisted the bathroom faucet to its widest point, letting the cold tap water fill the sink. With righteous determination she grabbed Mother’s pack of cigarettes out of her pocket and plunged them into the sink, drowning them. The inevitable yelling-spree extravaganza with a side of drama awaited her in the morning but Abigail acted like the grown-up despite the unavoidable consequences.
Now read this new and improved trimmed version.
Abigail twisted the bathroom faucet wide open, letting cold water fill the sink. With righteous determination she plunged Mother’s pack of cigarettes into it, drowning them. The inevitable yelling-spree extravaganza with a side of drama awaited her in the morning. Abigail acted the grown-up despite the consequences.
It flows better and I managed to clip 15 words. 62 words down to 47.
I could also have cut this sentence further: With righteous determination she drowned Mother’s pack of cigarettes.
With this version, I clipped 4 more words. 13 words down to 9 for the sentence, and 43 words for the paragraph. Awesome. Go me!
I strive to keep my readers interested. I want readers to keep turning the pages. To accomplish this, I add something surprising to every chapter. On a good day I can find something compelling to add to every page, either through funny dialogue or witty prose.
When in doubt, chuck it out. I cut any scenes that don’t move the story along in some meaningful way.
The above passage about Abigail drowning her mother’s cigarettes stays put. Destroying the cigarettes emphasizes the flipped relationship between mother and daughter and shows a piece of Abigail’s struggles as well as the potential for who she wants to be, a strong, confident individual. She dismisses the inevitable reaction of her mother and does the mature thing. Taking care of Mother’s unfinished and destructive business highlights Abigail’s strength of character.
Finally, no matter how much I may love my own writing, I part with any sentences or paragraphs containing too much exposition. I realize, I need to know these things about my story and characters, but readers do not.
What are some of your writing quirks and thoughts?