Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Did What?!

Character gives us qualities, but it is in actions - what we do - that we are happy or the reverse... All human happiness and misery take the form of action.
~ Aristotle


During my last round of revisions, my CP (Valerie) alerted me to my overuse of words like felt, noticed, saw, thought, seemed. Well, that and my adverb sickness. Poor Valerie - I think her fingers must have bled from typing "unnecessary adverb" so many times!

If we want our writing to blaze and pop and sizzle, we must stay active and strong in our descriptions. This is an area of weakness for me - but I didn't know that at first. That's why we all need CP's and beta readers.

I am a composition teacher. You don't even want to know how often I nag my students about show vs. tell and passive voice and, yes, adverbs. I was SHOCKED the first time Valerie said I was telling and not showing. I thought, What! That's not possible! But it was possible.

Even when we know the right things to do, we don't always recognize those errors in our own writing - or at least I don't. Things I would recognize and use as "teachable moments" in my students' writing, I am blind to in my own. It's crazy!

Thankfully, I have Valerie, so I can be cured. Hopefully, you have someone too.

Do you have trouble seeing errors or areas of weakness in your own writing?

34 comments:

Christine Fonseca said...

I echo....A LOT! Thankful my CPs are great at pointing it out.

Laurel said...

Ha! Of course I do. One of my hands-down biggest weaknesses is leaving words out! You'd think with all the copy editing I do day after day as a magazine editor, I'd notice really, really basic things like that. But when I look at my own work, my brain fills in what I meant to write. I am so grateful for the nit-picky proofreading some of my CPs do for me.

Jaydee Morgan said...

It's hard to recognize the mistakes in your own work. I think it's imperative to have a CP - and critiquing other's work also allows you to spot the same mistakes in your own work more easily.

Kristi said...

A giant, huge, great big resounding YES to that question!

I've been known to use the same word over and over in a chapter. Frequently. And never see it myself.

Thank goodness for CP's that catch our horrific errors! I always, always, always am oblivious to my own!

Patti said...

Totally. I have a whole list of words I try to avoid, but of course in trying to avoid them I create others. I used to use look a lot, now I have to watch my glances.

Jonathon Arntson said...

I hope you're ready to give me lessons on avoiding passive voice because it's one of my major weaknesses.

Laura Marcella said...

So true! Critiquing other people's work actually helps me with my own writing because I realize I'm making the same mistakes they are! That's why I like to set aside my work for while then read it out loud when I come to it. I catch many more errors that way!

Tere Kirkland said...

I'm getting better at spotting those things since I joined a crit group, but I still overuse feel, seem, etc., in my first drafts.

Great post!

Carolyn V. said...

I totally do, Shannon!!! It's sad. I love to read about others emotions in books. It's my favorite thing. But my crit partner pointed out to me that I don't put enough emotion into my writing. How funny is that?

Tamika: said...

Oh, I do this too! My critique partners were going over this with me on Tuesday. Ouch:)

ali said...

Oh man, this is so true! I have TONS of shortcomings in my writing--not only do I have my favorite words I use way too often, but I also tend to gloss over big events, as if I'm assuming the reader is in my head and already gets how A+B=Z, lol.

Thank goodness for awesome CP's!

L.T. Elliot said...

Oh, I'm a blind as a bat when it comes to errors in my own writing. Thank HEAVEN for CPs. I'd suck rocks without them!

Lisa Gail Green said...

Someone tipped me off recently to wordle.net which is awesome! You can just copy and paste text and it will show you which words you use most. Mine? LIKE. Sheesh.

Elana Johnson said...

Um, yeah. Like a lot. My poor CP's are constantly telling me they have no idea where my MC is or what's going on. Establishing the setting is not my strong suit. Le sigh.

Anne said...

It is extremely hard to see these mistakes in our own writing. I'm glad you have someone willing to help you out.

Susan R. Mills said...

This is so true! I can't tell you how many times my crit partners have pointed out something that I didn't recognize, but knew better about. It's weird, huh?

Valerie Geary said...

Aww! You made me blush.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I think I've got the nitty gritty stuff down, but need to work on big-picture stuff now. With the way my brain works that's a whole lot harder!

Jennie Bailey said...

I am the QUEEN of Adverbs. I don't worry about it in my first draft, but I have to clean my second and third and sometimes fourth drafts. It makes me feel better that a composition teacher has the same weakness! Thanks for sharing!

Nicole Zoltack said...

I have a heard time with repetition. And sometimes telling and showing. And on a few occasions, not giving enough setting.

Vicki Rocho said...

I just write. It either works for me or it doesn't. I fuss with it until it works, but I don't always have a text book definition / reason why it was broken in the first place.

Jade said...

I have too many weaknesses to mention. I don't know what I'd do without my CPs and betas.

I tend to overuse words to: looked, turned, suddenly. Gah, why does everything happen suddenly?!!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I'm guilty of the exact same issues. Thank goodness for great CPs.

Thanks for the sweet comment on my blog today. Love you and I got your back too! :)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I go back over every single thing I write (even comments on blogs) and check for illegal use of or over use of "that." I have a serious problem with it...

Michelle McLean said...

Oh my goodness, yes! I always have a few key words or phrases that I repeat way too much...I've got adverb fever like crazy....and I tend to leave out a lot of the emotional reactions my characters should be feeling during the first draft :) If it weren't for my CPs I'd be in a lot of trouble LOL

Kimberly Franklin said...

Isn't it funny that when it comes to our own writing were oblivious to the rules we know by heart? :)
Good luck on your WIP!!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Absolutely Shannon. The writing process is multi-layered, and we cannot be both writer and editor at the same time. In teaching mode you are editor. In writing mode you are writer. So it's easy to see how this can happen -- absolutely. And you are by far the only one. Show me a writer who has not lost sight of her work at some point or another, and you can bet you'll be looking at a cartoon character, not a real person.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Heck ya! Sometimes I make the silliest errors. They're my Homer Simpson moments.

Donna B said...

Hi Shannon! Thank you for popping in to my blog and for following. I am THRILLED to find your blog! I believe we keep ourselves open and put our requests out into the Universe, and our teachers come forth.

I want to write a book about my Father, who is a Marine, a wonderful Father, a unique person and has Alzheimer's. I do not have a critic or person who reads my writing, other than followers and family.

So far, I have a rough outline. I recently met Kyle Fitzpatrick, who wrote THE EIGHTH PLAGUE and is working on his next book, THE NEW AMERICANS. He has been approached by Hollywood about making both books into movies! He is the one who suggested doing an outline first, then writing in long hand...I would rather use the computer...much easy to edit...

Anyway, thank you and I look forward to exploring your blog and learning more about you.

Victoria Dixon said...

I thought I wasn't telling once I learned to do scenes through the actions of the characters. Imagine my shock (this was after so MANY professional writers had critiqued it!) when an unpublished author pointed out exactly the same issue you mention. He felt, he noticed, realized, saw/heard/touched, etc. Sigh. One more draft....

Jennie Englund said...

Valerie sure seems like a wise, bright, reliable friend!

You two are lucky to have each other.

Lynda Young said...

Telling sneaks into my writing ever so quietly... as does the passive ;)

Cleverly Inked said...

It's great to find our tendencies. Though I do find it nice that some authors have the same type of feel in all their books.

Heather said...

Beta readers are the bomb aren't they? Mine are worth their weight in gold!

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