Crazy-making writing habits that drive every editor insane
"The road to hell is paved with adverbs." –Stephen King
The Power of Words and Story Arcs
I admit that I hate lazy writing. Whether it's passive voice or weak verbs, their use pushes me one step closer to insanity (and I'm already dancing on the edge of the cliff). Below is a list of a few power words that convey emotion and deliver maximum impact. When utilized effectively and without supporting adjectives or adverbs, they will strengthen your writing. I'm sure you can think of more on your own. Here are a few to get you started:
Agony, annihilate, apocalypse, assault, backlash, beast, beating, beware, blinded, blood, bloodbath, bloodcurdling, bloody, bomb, buffoon, bumbling, cadaver, catastrophe, caution, collapse, corpse, crazy, cripple, crisis, danger, deadly, death, destroy, devastating, disastrous, doomed, drowning, duplicity, epic, epidemic, fail, feeble, fired, fool, frantic, frightening, gambling, gullible, hack, havoc, hazardous, hoax, horrific, insidious, invasion, jail, jeopardy, lawsuit, looming, lunatic, lurking, meltdown, mired, mistake, murder, nightmare, obliterate, obsolete, proximity, promiscuous, panic, peril, pitfall, plummet, plunge, poison, pummel, reckoning, refugee, revenge, risky, riveting, savage, savor, sensuous, searing, serendipity, shatter, shellacking, silly, smash, strangle, suck, tailspin, tank, targeted, teetering, terror, toxic, tragedy, vaporize, volatile, vulnerable, wounded.
Those were a few to add to your arsenal; the following are a few phrases to eliminate. In fact, do a search on your manuscript for any of the below and delete them. They do nothing to enhance your work. If you see them, it's a clue that you are using the wrong word in the sentence.
Kind of, sort of, a little bit, just, even, sort of, very
Why all this focus on words? Because each one matters. We are storytellers. We create worlds with a rhythm and sound of its own. We took on the responsibility to transport readers into our world and show them our hearts. Perhaps the average person wouldn't know why they couldn't get into a story or why they started skimming or why they put the book down, but I do. Each line of your manuscript, each word in a sentence, is important.
Elevate your writing.
With most stories, we begin with a problem or conflict. You've designed hooks that have kept your readers on the edge of their seat, pumped up your sentences so that they pack a punch, have created snappy dialogue and intense action scenes, but did you wrap up all those sub-plots and story arcs?
When revising, read to make sure each main character has wrapped up their journey. Do not leave a subplot undone. If you're not sure because you've revised it so many times your eyes are crossing, choose a few beta readers to read through your manuscript before sending it to an editor/agent/publisher.
Some writers outline, others like to wing it. I'm the latter type of author, but I do cheat by making character sketches along the way that detail who my heroine is at the beginning and who she is at the end. The plot twists and turns must support and contribute to this evolution. More importantly, it must appear natural and real.
Readers need to think the ending makes sense. There's a saying that goes something like this, "the beginning sells your current novel; the ending sells your next one." This is absolutely true.
Secondary characters may have their own subplots happening---do not forget them or lose them in the fray.
Main plots and subplots are often entwined. When revising, make sure that the character's reactions are organic to the twists and turns. The last thing you want is a reader rolling their eyes or putting the book down because the reactions of your characters simply don't make sense in "real life".
If you're intentionally leaving a hook at the end of your book as part of a series, make it satisfying enough that your readers won't get turned off. There needs to be enough of a conclusion—and evolution—that the reader isn't discouraged.
Action steps for your weekend homework:
· Challenge yourself to do better. When reviewing your manuscript, are you delivering a punch with each sentence? Are you using the right word--as in, the most powerful one?
· Read poetry to see how masters use few words to convey great emotion
· Eliminate adverbs as much as possible. They are clues that indicate a weak verb. You can find a better word.
· Make sure all those loose ends are tied up with your plot and subplot.
· Ask yourself—does this make sense or does the ending feel forced?
Amber Lea Easton
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com.