Posted in better writing, editing, good writing, how to be more descriptive, how to write, learning to write, rewrite, The Writer's Toolbox, writing, writing advice, writing better

The Dreaded “It”

it-exampleEver read a piece of writing that drove you nuts, because it kept using the word it? Now sometimes it can come in handy. Really it can, but a lot of times it can be overused to the point of being annoying. And sometimes it just leaves the reader wondering exactly what you meant by “it”. It’s one of those words you avoid using if at all possible.

A technique I use to spot all the “its” and determine if each one should stay or go the way of all bad writing is to ask myself some simple questions…

  • Do I really need this “it” here?
  • Can I use another word to describe the “it” better?
  • And last but certainly not least, can the reader understand what “it” truly means?

After asking these questions, I usually find myself changing the “it” to another word or phrase, and yep it the text definitely reads better, and it the message is that much clearer.

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Posted in descriptive, emotional stories, good writing, great writing, how to be more descriptive, how to show your emotions, how to write, learning to write, The Writer's Toolbox, writing, writing advice, writing better

Putting More Emotion Into Your Writing

Recently, a friend of mine emailed a question about how to let the reader in on what another character other than the main character is feeling. I promptly answered, and then realized it would also make a great topic for a blog post. I haven’t touched on emotional writing for awhile, so here we go. Let’s dive into how to become an emotional writer.

Ever read or written a sentence like this…..

“You can’t be serious? How could you do that? Roger replied angrily.

OR

“Wow. Would you look at that?” Madison said. I could tell she was surprised.

On the surface there’s nothing really wrong with these sentences. But from a creative writing standpoint, well… they aren’t that spectacular either. Mostly, because these sentences are telling the reader what’s going on instead of showing it. The reader doesn’t want to be told how the characters are feeling, they want to feel it for themselves. One of the best way to accomplish this is to give emotional cues.

What’s an emotional cue?

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Posted in characterization, descriptive, good description, how to be more descriptive, how to write, The Writer's Toolbox, writing, writing advice

Description Part 1: 3 Elements of Good Description

Description allows the reader to visualize the people, places, settings, and objects in your story. Description is important because good, effective description paints a vivid picture that immerses the reader into your story, which allows for a deeper experience for the reader. A well written description moves the story forward and adds to characterization. There are three main elements of good description.

  1. Specific well written detail– Be specific about what you want to say. Less is more, so find the right word or words to show detail. Stay away from ambiguous descriptions like suddenly, look, like, good. These words aren’t giving you the biggest bang for your buck. (For more about words to avoid check out Grammar Guru: Words to Avoid.) Also go a little deeper and use sensory detail. The use of sensory detail detail is a key element in good description. Try to use all when writing; sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.

Note: Do not rely too heavily on sight itself, instead try to use some of the other four for variety and depth.

  1. Revelation of the characters inner life– A story will be more balanced and descriptive of the characters if their inner life or struggle is depicted. Go inside your character’s “head” and show the reader what’s going on, what thoughts are going on.

Note: When choosing whose point of view to write in, remember that describing something from a certain character’s point of view can change the whole feel of a story. Figure out who will make the story more lively and entertaining to read.

  1. Motivation, the impulse that drives the character– Motivation is essential to convincing the reader that they should care about your character. It is when you can reach out to the reader and show them what lies beneath.

Want to be more descriptive? Look around you at the people, places, and things in a new way. Notice not just the obvious details, but the less obvious, subconscious details. Keep a notebook of the things that stand out and you’ll be amazed at how your new look at the world will reshape the way you write.

Check out the next 2 parts of this series…

Description Part 2: 6 Pitfalls of Description
Description Part 3: The Secret to Good Description

Posted in adjectives, better writing, descriptive, editing, good writing, grammar, great writing, how to be more descriptive, how to write, ly rule, ly words, The Writer's Toolbox, writing, writing advice

The LY Rule

It’s a habit that the budding writer is apt to make. In fact, many writers can put years into writing without learning a very important rule of a proper writing technique I like to call the ly rule. Have you ever noticed how saturated some works can be with words  like gladly, fairly, or brightly? Sure, there needs to be more description in stories, but make sure it’s the right kind of description.

It’s usually a good idea to use less adverbs and adjectives instead of more. It’s all about being as specific as possible and showing your reader what’s going on without resorting to the ly. So that means beefing up your nouns and verbs (especially the action verbs). But ly words are sneaky little suckers, so let’s take a look at some examples to see some ways ly usage can be reduced.

EXAMPLE 1:
She cooked over a hot stove and constantly pushed her blond sweat-matted hair out of her face as she stirred the pot.

So let’s rewrite it without the ly word constantly…

She cooked over a hot stove, pushing her blond sweat-matted hair out of her face for what seemed the hundredth time, while stirring the pot.

OR

She cooked over the hot stove as sweat-matted hair obstructed her vision. Anna swiped it back cursing her blond strands, while stirring the pot.

If you notice taking out the ly constantly you add more description than if you’d left constantly in the sentence. What does constantly actually do for your sentence. Not much, constantly is an ambiguous word. It really doesn’t tell the reader much at all and leaves a lot for interpretation. This is actually the case for most ly words.

Words like quickly, darkly, considerably… How quickly? Did she run as fast as a tiger, or was she faster than a speeding bullet? Big difference right? How darkly? Was the room as dark as a full moon night, or darker than the eye of a black hole? How considerably? Did he walk as far as the mail box down the drive or walk a full marathon? Are you starting to see a pattern here? If you can be specific, do it, because it will add the extra punch to your story that will set yours above others.

Let’s do another sentence for good measure…

EXAMPLE 2:

He shook Robert’s hand and then Tanya’s.  “Mr. and Mrs. Black, I hope your trip back home was reasonably safe.”

You can write this sentence a few ways…

You can take the world reasonably out all together and say…

He shook Robert’s hand and then Tanya’s.  “Mr. and Mrs. Black, I hope your trip back home was a safe one?”

OR

You could leave it and put emphasis on the word reasonably with italics to show a sarcastic tone…

He shook Robert’s hand and then Tanya’s.  “Mr. and Mrs. Black, I hope your trip back home was reasonably safe.”

…The ly serves a purpose of bringing attention to the word, which in this case you want.

OR

He shook Robert’s hand and then Tanya’s.”I know the mountains this time of night is a dangerous place. I hope it wasn’t too perilous for you both.”

So you see there are multiple ways that you can avoid the ly words or make them work for you. It’s a matter of knowing what context you want to bring to your story. You’ll also notice that when taking out ly words you usually have to use more than one word to replace that word. So yes, it will up your word count overall to take them out, but the benefits will far outweigh this. In fact you may find that the more you write the more concise you tend to be.

It isn’t possible to take out ALL ly words, but you should try to get rid of as many as possible. I struggle with this ly rule all the time and often find myself having to go back many times to make corrections. So believe when I say, this is a rule that ALL writer’s have a problem with, but it’s a battle worth the fight. The next time you sit down to write ask yourself this. How many ly words do you think you could cut?