Look out for these five mortal sins of writing.
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Expressions become clichés when they are used so often that everyone knows them. Who doesn’t know such clichés as ‘fit as a fiddle’ or ‘in the nick of time.’ It’s also the mark of a lazy writer who doesn’t want to think deeply. Choose expressions that bring your work alive. Sometimes just reworking the cliché can revitalize the expression and it becomes your own. Let’s take ‘fit as a fiddle.’ First of all, why did anyone come up with that? How can a fiddle be fit? How about ‘fit as Jillian Michaels.’
A thesaurus is a fantastic tool and I use it bountifully. See – that makes no sense. What I really want to say is, I use it liberally. Just because a word is in the thesaurus does not mean you can substitute it for another. Words in English have many meanings and you have to ensure that you are using the correct word. Ex: The profound river – instead of deep river.
A metaphor compares two unrelated objects or ideas to make your own point more striking.
One of the most famous is Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage.” Problem is many writers … and politicians end up mixing metaphors. What this means is they mix two unrelated metaphors or two unrelated images that do not go together. For example saying “Mr. X wields his axe to cement his position.”
4. A Torrent of Adverbs and Adjectives
I really don’t have a problem with adverbs – when used in moderation. Sometimes, they are just what you need to make your point. But if you continuously, unceasingly, incessantly, endlessly, always use them – they become fatiguing.
So too does the excessive use of adjectives. Use them only in strings of three and make them count. Adjectives and adverbs that are tossed in willy-nilly only clutter up your prose. Words like nice, pretty, kind, a lot, quite, funny are acceptable, but dull adjectives. They don’t tell us much. They’re far too vague. Instead of using such words try showing what make Mary Ann look pretty or how she is kind and you’ll find that your prose will perk up and your story will begin to shine.
Excessive description is often the mark of an inexperienced writer. Your reader has an
imagination. Let him/her use it. You, as a writer, provide the bones and the reader can fill in the rest.
This is an excerpt from The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis.
Polly had discovered long ago that if you opened a certain little door in the box-room attic of her house you would find the cistern and a dark place behind it which you could get into by a little careful climbing.
C.S. Lewis could have described this in detail, but just giving us those few descriptors allows us to visualize the space on our own … and we find we can do it quite well.
Let’s try to cleanse our souls of these five mortal sins.
2016 Spring Writing Classes for Beginners and Advanced
Creative Writing 101 – Tues. afternoons April 12 – June 28 in Oakville (space still available)
Crafting Your Novel – Wed. afternoons April 13 – June 29 in Oakville (FULL)
Crafting Your Novel – Thurs. afternoons April 14 – June 30 in Oakville (1 spot available)
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