Monday, September 6, 2010

Short and Sweet

It's Labor Day, yet I have a pile of papers on my desk. Nevertheless, I still owe it to my fellow readers to write a new post every so often. I'll keep it short and sweet with this helpful article from G. Miki Hayden that appeared on the Writer's Digest on September 3, 2010.

Half the difference between what works and what doesn’t in fiction has to do with how the words are phrased. If you want to be a polished writer, remember these rules for smoother and more powerful writing.

1. Use appropriate and frequent paragraph breaks.
Readers want breaks. That’s why text is divided into paragraphs to begin with. A skillful writer can always find a spot to put in a hard return. If you can't, look again; you can so.

2. Use only one name for a character.
If the character, Ron Carpenter, is a doorman, call him either Ron or Carpenter, but not both. And be careful about referring to him as ''the doorman.'' Although that seems like a good substitute for the name that has been repeated so often, unless his occupation is more than clear, the alternation between name and job title can be confusing.

3. Choose entirely distinct character names.
Don’t name your two lead characters Stan and Steve. Sure the names are different, but readers can’t always track that fact—especially when they pick up the book three days later to read again.

4. Don’t use slang unless you clarify it.
I’m pretty well-read but when I came across the phrase "seven deadliest" with the assertion that they built to felonies, I thought this was a special law-enforcement phrase and not a way of referring to the Seven Deadly Sins.

5. Limit your use of possibly offensive language.
Reasons exist for characters to swear. But remember that, nowadays, most books are bought by women and many women don’t like swearing for the sake of swearing (even in gritty or naturalistic novels).

Do you have a special method to polish your fiction?


  1. Great tips!

    I use the search in MS Word to find repetitive words like just, really, so, any adverbs. I'm always amazed at what I find. The search helps me to clean up my story and pack a punch with a better choice of words.

  2. Hi there, Donna,
    Using the MS Word search when editing is a good idea. Never thought of that before. Thanks for your tip, Donna.

  3. Hi Claudia! Great post! And although I write memoir I can use some of these tips as well!


  4. These are some great tips. Thank. I used to do those things.


  5. I use AutoCrit which gives produces reports on overused and repeated words. I like it because after five or six drafts, I'm overfamiliar with my text and miss stuff like that.

  6. All good advice! I use AutoCrit, which produces reports on overused and repeated words. I find it helpful after several drafts when I get overfamiliar with my text and start missing things like that.

  7. Hi there, Cathy,
    Even if you write memoirs, I think the rules still apply. Glad to see you here again ;)

    Hi Clarissa,
    Thanks for leaving a comment.

    Hi Jenna,
    Never heard of AutoCrit. Is this a program in Microsoft Office? Please share. Thanks!

  8. Happy belated Labour Day!

    Great tips. Hope you're having a good week!

  9. Hi Talli,
    Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a great trip back home. ;)

  10. These are good ones:) I have a tendency to pick names that rhyme which can be extremely annoying!

    Thanks for stopping by my place!

  11. Hi Tamika,
    Welcome to my community! Hope we can exchange some writing tips. ;)
    See you in the blogosphere!

  12. Claudia;
    Great post...thanks for the inspiration. Your site is wonderful and you are helping me to write better for my blog. Thanks for following my blog, I added you to my favorite sites so more can find you. Blessings!!!

  13. Hi yogiknitgirl,
    Glad to hear you like my blog. Thanks for your kind words and for adding my blog to your sites.

  14. AutoCrit is a standalone Internet-based program. You pay a yearly subscription (standard member level is $49 US per year) and you can cut and paste up to 4000 words at a time. There are various reports that you can choose from. Higher level membership gives more report options. It certainly doesn't replace good reading and editing but I use purely for mechanical reasons (to catch those ticks and pet words my eye misses).

  15. Hi Jenna,
    Thank you for the info on AutoCrit. That sounds helpful enough. ;)