Friday, February 24, 2012

Writing -- The Daily Dozen

As promised, these final six tips complete the  Daily Dozen exercises for healthy writing.
The first six tips appeared on Writers on the Move last month.

Participles-- the -ing words

This month's warm-up starts yet again with verbs and the dreaded dangling modifiers. And I'm pretty sure every writer, no matter how experienced, has at least one somewhere in a closet or in a closeted manuscript.

Running along the road , the hotel was easy to spot.

Yes, the problem here is easy to spot as well--as easy as a hotel running down the road. The -ing word, now an adjectival form of the verb, attaches itself to the nearest subject in the sentence and hey presto! Fun all round.

But when you're in throes of involvement with your lead character working through his problems, it can be more difficult to isolate.

He thought through his options one by one. Mulling them over, the book seemed to provide the safest answer.

Still a dangling modifier--the book is not mulling over his options, but it's easy to miss this one as the subject of the previous sentence is the man doing the mulling.

Practice writing a few deliberately and you'll soon pick them out in your self-editing.


 Getting Into Your Character's Skins is an excellent article by Shirley Corder. Make sure each character has his or her own vocabulary and speech mannerisms. They should not all use "spiffing fun" as a favorite exclamation unless you show one character being so affected by another that he adopts the words.

This seems obvious but to make characters distinct, they should each have their own favorite, well-differentiated phrases.

Identify these from the start in your character planning.

The Missing Tip

This space is left quite deliberately. I would love you to post your vital daily writing tip in the comments box below and the best one, or ones, will be inserted here next week. 

The Warm Down--vital exercises.

Poetry--one a day

Write it but most of all read it. The compression needed to encapsulate sense and emotion is a wonderful lesson to learn and keep in mind when writing longer pieces.

Be it ten, or a hundred and ten thousand words, each one must be a necessary part of the whole. 

For short poems of the day, visit Magdalena Ball on her Poetry Mondays.


All writers read, but take a chance to read out of your comfort zone to cross-fertilize ideas. Avoid the genre you write in yourself.

Try new avenues to explore new ideas. Go for the books you always told yourself you hated. If they're well written, they may well surprise you by stimulating your imagination in new ways.


A cop out? Not at all. Only with rest and relaxation can your mind work at optimum level. Set aside one day, or a half day if you really feel you can't afford the time, to pamper your writer's soul.

It's not a new idea. I loved it when I found it in The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. As the computer nerds say--garbage in, garbage out.

Take time to do what you love. Walk in the wild woods, visit art galleries and museums, socialize. And your writing will benefit accordingly.

 Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and   her New Year's Resolution is to blog with helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers far more regularly than she managed in 2011.


Heidiwriter said...

I love Julia Cameron's advice to re-fill your well. Have to keep reminding myself of that.

Tip: Try to tighten "purple prose" by removing one word from each sentence, one sentence from each paragraph, one paragraph from each scene, etc. (of course this isn't an absolute rule--you won't do it for EVERY single one, but try it, you might be surprised!)

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Super tip, thank you Heidi.

Karen Cioffi said...

Annie, great tips! You made this very understandable: "The -ing word, now an adjectival form of the verb, attaches itself to the nearest subject in the sentence."

Grammar can certainly be tricky!

When I was first leaning to self-edit, I practiced on my manuscript by eliminating all the "was" words. It's interesting how many ways you can come up with a sentence without using "was." Sometimes, it's necessary, but most of the time, it can be eliminated.

Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

Magdalena Ball said...

Excellent exercises Annie and thanks for the Poetry Monday reference. I'm taking a brief break from that (with some regret) while I promote my new novel, but starting back in March Poetry Monday will resume it's normal schedule. (love the running hotel!).

Anne Duguid Knol said...

I completely agree about the overuse of was. It's an incredibly difficult word to eliminate without practice but, as you say, it can often be done. It certainly strengthens the content when it is rewritten to avoid overused words.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

I shall look forward to the return of Poetry Monday, Maggie. I rather liked the running hotel too. And coincidentally, in the first chapter I edited for work tonight, a dangling modifier was lurking in wait...

Mayra Calvani said...

Thanks for all the great tips, Anne!

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Thanks Mayra.

Shirley Corder said...

Hi Annie! I don't know how I missed this one. You have some good suggestions. Thanks for linking to my article.

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