There are times when less is more and an easy way to improve our writing is to look for too much description and delete it. As writers, we paint a picture by describing settings, characters, and clothes, but it’s not always necessary to describe every little detail.
When we enter a room for the first time, our senses work in unison. We take in the sights, smells, and sounds, we feel the heat/cold/ambience, but mostly taste doesn’t come into play in this instance. We use our five senses concurrently and view the overall picture. Our eyes take in the main parts—the light or darkness, key colours, furniture, maybe some paintings, but we don’t focus on every single trinket on every table or dresser, or the brush strokes used in the paintings. If we went into complete details about the entire room, chances are we would lose our reader after a couple of paragraphs.
The same goes for descriptions of every character and what each person is wearing. An overview is sufficient.
The subject of an active voice sentence performs the action of the verb.
*I painted the wall* is written in the active voice.
*I* is the subject
*painted* is the verb
*the wall* is the object
When the object of the sentence is having something done to it, the verb is passive.
*The wall was painted by me* is in the passive voice.
*the wall* changes from object to subject
*I* becomes *me* when turned from subject to object.
*painted* becomes *was painted*
Of course it’s fine to use the passive voice occasionally, but a paragraph with half a dozen *wases* or *weres* can be very distracting.
Concentrate on the words that don’t add anything to your story, whether repeating the same word several times close to each other (unless occasionally for emphasis), or conveying the same information more than once.
e.g. my most used word is *just*. I just love writing just about anything using the word *just*, just too often.
Here’s a list I’ve compiled through several sources of words that are used too often, or words that add little to the meaning of a sentence:
• At the present time
• Began to
• By means of
• Considering the fact that
• Moved to
Some of them might seem fine by you, but most of these are imprecise in certain circumstances.
*Mary moved to go to the bedroom* sounds a bit awkward.
*Mary headed to the bedroom* sounds stronger. Similarly, using *tiptoed, sauntered, ambled, or stomped* would make it easier to visualise the way Mary is travelling to the bedroom.
Lastly, think of the parts of a story that you tend to skim over to get to the exciting bits. You want to avoid those skimmed over bits and have your book full of exciting bits. Use your words wisely. Be concise and your manuscript will flow better.
On the other side of “the call”
by Emmie Dark
I realized the other day that I’ve just reached the year’s anniversary of the date I got my “call”. It’s been an amazing twelve months and I thought it was timely to re-cap some of the key moments of my journey. So, with a whole one year’s experience as a published author, here’s my recap on the year so far.
Things I expected:
There are lots of exciting things that come with being a first-time published author. Holding your book in your hands for the very first time. Seeing your book on a shelf in a store. The first time a reader – someone you’ve never even met – writes to you to tell you they enjoyed reading your story.
So is finally getting the call and seeing your dreams come true as exciting as you always thought? You better believe it.
Things I didn’t expect:
All the things I just mentioned become even more precious because of the blood, sweat and tears you put into your book AFTER the call. That’s right – unfortunately the hard work of polishing your manuscript until it glows in order to get it noticed is only the very first step in getting it out to readers. You’re going to have to polish that book until your fingers cramp and you’re so sick of every single word you never want to see it again.
Of course, I knew there would be work to be done – no book is perfect. But I don’t think I’d ever properly thought about what life would be like as a proper author, when writing was a job and not just a passion.
And that leads me to my third and final point:
Things I wish I’d known:
Unless you’re incredibly fortunate, odds are you won’t be able to quit your day job when you get your call. But you know what? Being a published author is pretty much a full-time job. So prepare to work two jobs for a while.
Sleep is overrated, isn’t it?
One other thing I should mention, and I guess it goes under the heading of “Things I didn’t expect”, is the pleasure of seeing your book under various different covers.
Cassie and Ronan’s story is out this month (July) in Australia and New Zealand as a “Blush” imprint from Mills and Boon. It has a pretty pink/mauve cover with a lovely, happy-looking couple who I’m quite happy to consider to be Cassie and Ronan.
I imagine the thrill must wear off for some of those authors with dozens and dozens of books in translation all around the world. But for me there’ a special thrill in seeing Cassie’s Grand Plan with a different cover – perhaps because it’s the Australian release, right here in my very own home town.
By Margaret Tanner
The start of a new year is a great time to de-clutter, figuratively and literally speaking. A time to cast off the old and start afresh with the new.
I am a clutter collector from way back. I figure why throw anything out; you never know when you might need it. I inherited the hoarder gene.
“Waste not, want not” was my mother’s motto and she lived by it the whole of her life. Maybe it was because she lived through the great depression of the 1930’s and World War 2, that she would use and re-use, save and squirrel away stuff. Our house was never untidy, because most of the hoarded items were well out of sight.
I should have learned my lesson after my dear mother died about 20 years ago and my sister and I had to clear out her house. To say it was a nightmare was an understatement. It took weeks. My mother had kept receipts from the 1940’s, even her World War 2 ration book. And speaking of books, she had hundreds of them. Then there were the ornaments, pretty little knick-knacks that reposed on every shelf or level surface in the house. Boxes of china. Well, you get the idea.
Now you would think that after all this trauma and angst, I would have dashed home and gone through my own cupboards. I didn’t, but I did take a lot of my mother’s stuff with me. Well, how could I let it go? All those little treasures.
My mother-in-law passed away, same story, I kept a lot of her things too. I was a hoarder. It came as naturally as breathing or eating.
Well friends, retribution did come. The youngest of our sons finally left home, so hubby and I decided it was time to downsize. We bought a smaller house, and put our larger house on the market. “We’ve got a lot of stuff here, we’ll have to get rid of it,” hubby says.
Over my dead body. “No, we won’t do anything rash,” I said, “there’s plenty of time to work out what we want to keep.”
A week before the auction of our house, my husband had to have heart by-pass surgery, so I had to go on with the sale alone. After the auction and hubby’s successful operation, I had to start packing, because when he came home he couldn’t do anything for eight weeks. I really hit the panic button because we had a short settlement. Forty days to clear out all our stuff, that of my mother and mother-in-law (things I had kept, and shouldn’t have). Well, it was a nightmare. I did most of it on my own. I don’t know how many trips I made to donate all these “treasures” to the second hand thrift shop (we call them Op shops here in Australia. They are run by charities to raise money to help the less fortunate). And I did help the less fortunate - big time. The Op shop manager must have thought I was Mother Teresa re-incarnated.
It was terrible. I cried because I had to give away my treasures, mum’s treasures and my mother in-law’s treasures. Worse still, was the time it took to pack them and deliver them to the Op shop.
With the clock ticking, I had to be ruthless – and I was.
If you are even contemplating moving house, start to get rid of your surplus stuff early. In fact, don’t collect it in the first place. A lady once told me that if she didn’t wear a dress for a year, she was probably never going to wear it again, and she got rid of it. Smart lady. Wish I had such courage. I still cling to my favourite dresses, hey I might lose weight and they will fit me again???
The moral of this story is - don’t hoard. De-clutter as much as possible, because one day you will have to sort it out, or your children will have to sort it out.
The same goes for your writing. Be ruthless. If the manuscript you have expended blood, sweat and tears over isn’t working, discard it. Temporarily cast it into your bottom drawer is what I mean. Don’t destroy it, because you might be able to resurrect it at a later date. Start on something fresh and new. Once you get your writing tastebuds tingling again with a new premise, a feisty heroine and a spunky hero, the words will start flowing until they become a torrent.
Never give up. It is a steep climb to the top of the publishing mountain, but oh what a view once you get there.