Writing, a Never Ending Journey of Exploration and Learning

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” — E.L. Doctorow

If someone told me as I first started writing about nine years ago that my writing would be a never ending journey, I’m not sure I would have set out on that particular path. Granted, most people start writing for a reason, which usually includes the buzzing of character voices and ideas that won’t shut up. That was my case, and even with that warning I probably wouldn’t have had a choice in the matter. I find writing to be the only way to get the voices to shut the hell up (yeah, that makes me sound pretty certifiable huh?). But it’s the idea of the never ending that might make most people bulk, though I have learned since then that never ending can be a good thing.

When I started writing, I didn’t even know how to put a decent sentence together. Of course back then, I thought I could do at least that much, but I was young, delusional, and a little stupid. I don’t even dare look back at my writing from the very beginning because I’d cringe way too much. It was embarrassing. Really it was.

Continue reading “Writing, a Never Ending Journey of Exploration and Learning”

Grammar Guru: Words to Avoid

I have always heard that there are certain words that shouldn’t be used or avoided when possible in creative writing. But what exactly are those words? I knew a few of them such as “was” and ly words, but I knew there had to be more, so I did some research and this is what I came up with. Remember this is a guideline only and these words should be avoided most of the time, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use them at all.

The Weak Links
Avoid these words because there is usually another stronger word that can be used instead, so go for the bigger punch.
  • ly words… Check out my blog post The LY Rule to see more about this.
  • any words with these endings…Ize…tion…sion…ment…ance…
  • make
  • made
  • involve
  • involved
  • provide
  • provided
These words should be avoided at all cost. They don’t do anything for your story but leave ambiguous holes.
  • instantly
  • suddenly
Passive Voice Anyone?
These words typically indicate a passive voice, but not always. Be mindful of these words and how they are being used. If you have one of these words in your sentence, check to see if the sentence is still active, however, passive voice can be a useful tool if used in the correct manner.
  • is
  • are
  • was
  • were
  • be
  • been
  • being
A Big Fat, Duh
This phrase is like shouting duh to your readers. Don’t use it unless you have a REALLY good reason to do so.
  • Of course
Space Holders
These words don’t do much but fill in space and take up word count, so if you want to get your word count down take an ax to these words.
  • that
  • just
  • really
  • very
  • quite
  • sort of
More Description Please
These words are used often, but don’t really say much. Is there another word that would work better and be more descriptive?
  • walk
  • look
  • like
Telling Words
These words usually indicate that you are telling your reader something instead of showing it.
  • saw
  • heard
  • thought
Can You Seem?
What does seem really mean and when you use it, can what you seem really do it? Confused yet? Let’s take a look at an example.
Example… The house seemed quiet.
How can a house seem quiet? Doesn’t a house just sit there, so how would it seem anything at all?
  • seem/seemed
Do you ING?
Watch how many action ing words you use. An overabundance can make a story sound weak. I’m not saying don’t use them just cut it way back and try not to start sentences with an ing words. Remember ing words usually indicate action that is happening now or while something else is happening. If not used in the right way, they can have adverse effects on the way your story plays out.
Lazy Words
These words can be used but are lazy words. They’re a quick easy fix, so instead try taking the road less traveled next time you find yourself using one of these words.
  • briefly
  • good
  • bad
  • nice
  • went
  • came
  • got
  • get
Guilty Pleasure
This word is usually used in an abundance (at least with me), but other words should be used instead for proper wording.
  • as… instead of using as use… while or when
Example… As Robert ran down the street… INSTEAD SAY… While Robert ran down the street.
Give Me Some Slang
These words are used, but are actual NOT real words.
  • alot… proper use is… a lot
  • alright… proper use is… all right
Get Rid of It
This word is used when another word would be much more appropriate. The only thing this word is good for is leaving the reader hanging. What does “it” mean? Who is “it” referring to? Be specific. Take out the it and throw him in the trash before it drives your readers crazy.
Example… It was hot… INSTEAD SAY… The Stove was hot.
  • it
Some of these words were a surprise to me and I’m guilty of more than a few violations, but it’s good to have a list now that I can use as I’m attacking my final draft. I’m sure there are more words out there that are on the “don’t use list” please feel free to leave a comment and add to this list.

A Review of the Basics: Grammar and Puncuation

We all have learned the tedious writing skills throughout grade school and some even in college, but can you really know all the rules all the time? I know most of the basics, but often find myself making mistakes in grammar, spelling and punctuation on a regular basis. Some of the mistakes are simply because I’m in too much of a rush to stop and correct, some I just overlook, and other mistakes are born out of ignorance. I recently went back to brush up on my grammar and punctuation rules and found a few areas that I was doing plain wrong, but assumed it was correct. It has made me realize that any who wish to pursue even a casual interest in writing should take a little time to review the basics.

There are an infinite number of books and websites available just for the purpose of teaching proper English grammar and punctuation but searching through all of them can be daunting, so I have listed the resources that I have used and found very helpful. If you want to brush up your skills take a look…

Alpha Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 HoursI purchased Alpha Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 Hours and found the information well presented and the exercises helped me put the lessons into practice. Each lesson takes about an hour or less to go through it. Do a lesson or two a day, will make it easy to be refreshed in the English language within days.

I also found a few websites that I are helpful as well…

English Grammar Revolution is a website with a listing of all eight parts of speech and more detail about what they are and how they work. This website is a great tool for learning grammar. It also have a section dedicated to sentence diagramming. Click here to try out some exercises and learn how to diagram properly (they even have videos in each lesson), because the best way to learn is to put your knowledge to the test. Scroll down the page until you find the 10 chapters worth of exercises.

About.com: A Guide to Basic Punctuation Rules is a website that lists out the basic punctuations, how to use them, and gives a few examples to show them in a sentence. The rules listed on the site are the most common in practice for proper English, though the rules are only guidelines. You may find people who may use commas more than others, or use semi colons or dashes a lot. It really is all about the preference of the person writing. The important thing to remember is that punctuation works as a stop or pause, so if you feel like the sentence needs a break then you need to decide whether to throw in a comma or simply end the sentence.

It doesn’t matter whether you use the Internet or a hard copy of a book, either will give you  the information to help reduce the number of mistakes as you write, but don’t think those mistakes will all be done and over with. Let’s face it, the human error will always be King. That’s when it comes in handy to have a friend or college that you can send your writing to for them to look over.