You're an Amateur Writer If

All writers want to look like experienced, sophisticated writers. We all rush to get that first draft down on paper, but then comes the time to self-edit and rewrite our manuscripts. There lies your opportunity to slow down, have another cup of coffee, and spruce up that first draft.
            The following points are things you might want to avoid because they make you appear like an amateur or a weak writer:
            1. Avoid the use of -ing and as constructions. They can sometimes make two
                actions seem simultaneous when they are physically impossible.

                Example:  Rushing into the house, I put on a fresh blouse and skirt.
                Should be written:  I rushed into the house and put on a fresh blouse
                                                and skirt.

                Example:  As I put the kettle on the stove, I turned to face him.
                Should be written:  I put the kettle on the stove and turned to face him.

   If you just have to use that -ing phrase, try putting it in the middle of the sentence.
   Then it is less conspicuous.

            2.  Avoid the use of clich├ęs. I do not even have to explain this one. There is nothing,
                 in my opinion, that will make you look more like a weak or amateur writer
                 than this.

            3.  And then there is the adverb, the -ly word. This, I have to admit, is one of my
                 biggest downfalls. I love them, so I struggle with myself to get rid of them.
                 Now do not get me wrong. An occasional one can be forgiven. When you use
                 a weak verb and an adverb, you are using two weak words in place of one strong
                 Example:  Angrily she shut the door behind her.
                 Should be written:  She slammed the door behind her.

                 Now there can be an exception to the rule for the sake of affect.

                 Example:  She kissed him--slowly, longingly.

            4.  Avoid a lot of short sentences. Try stringing some of them together with a
                 comma. Just do not overdo it.
                 Example:  “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”
                 Should be written:  “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

            5.  Using a lot of italics and exclamation marks should be used only to convey
                 your character is shouting. Otherwise, the writer appears very insecure. Just
                 let the dialogue and description convey all the emotion needed.

            6.  Another stylistic device that can make a writer come across as an amateur is
                 flowery, poetic figures of speech or metaphors.

            7.  Are your sex scenes too explicit? You may want to leave a certain amount
                 of details left to your readers’ imagination. They do quite well with this, you
                 know. No heavy breathing, please.

            8.  Profanity has been so over used that it no longer has any shock value and
                 can turn your reader off. Now if it is a characteristic of your character, then
                 by all means use it. Otherwise, it is simply a sign of a small vocabulary.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of:  To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
                              Sarah’s Secret
Member of:  Sisters in Crime
                     Writers on the Move


Margaret Fieland said...

Great list, Faye. Short sentences, however, can be quite appropriate in an action scene. The trick, of course, is to be aware of when they are appropriate and when not.

T. Forehand said...

Love the examples that show. The examples clearly are tightly written. Oops...too may ly words.

Debbie A Byrne said...

Good examples.

Heidiwriter said...

This should be a "must read" for all beginning writers! Very good.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Good rules...but rules are also meant to be broken.

Karen Cioffi said...

Great tips, Faye. I once went through a short story of mine and eliminated all the "was" in it. A very interesting exercise.

Magdalena Ball said...

This is an excellent sheet for editing, Faye. Worth checking through each of your items while working through a line edit of a manuscript.

Faye Tollison said...

Yes, you are right, Margaret, but I'm talking about a lot of short sentences and at times when you're not trying to add suspense to your story. Some writers write a lot of long (and I'm talking very long) sentences and then there are those who write almost entirely in short sentences, which can give a rather abrupt tone to your writing. Thanks for your comment. I always welcome them.

Faye Tollison said...

LOL...I get you! I'm glad you liked the examples. I think they make your point more real.

Faye Tollison said...

Thank you, Debbie.

Faye Tollison said...

Thank you, Heidiwriter. I hope there are some young writers out there who have or are reading this post. I had to learn the hard way!

Faye Tollison said...

Be very careful how you break them! A rebel among us, you are. :)

Faye Tollison said...

That is a very good tip, Karen. We should all get in the habit of doing that. It is amazing what you find when do that.

Faye Tollison said...

Thank you, Magdalena.

elysabeth said...

Thank you for sharing with us. Very good points to remember as we progress in our writing career, especially if we want to go far in with our writing. - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of FINALLY HOME, a Kelly Watson, YA paranormal mystery
THE TIES OF TIME, a Kelly Watson, YA paranormal mystery

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