Fixing Your Bad Writing Habits

Before sending your story off to your critique group or beta reader, it’s a good idea to do yourself (and them) a favor. Use the “search in document” feature in your word processor to find and fix your bad writing habits.

We all have writing quirks we’re well aware of. Sometimes they’re so ingrained we don’t catch all of them when we proof our own work. When we request feedback from others, we don’t want them distracted by little things we already know about – we hope for new insights.

Also, finding these things can help you improve and tighten up your writing.

Here are a few ideas:

* Had and was. I search for these frequently (because it’s one of my own bad habits). Using “had” or “was” usually means I’m using a verb form that slows down my writing. Why say, “Laren was standing by the door” when I can say “Laren stood by the door”?

* Suddenly. It should be clear in my writing that something happened suddenly, without me saying so. Usually this can be deleted with no further rewriting.

* Very. If I have to say something was “very attractive”, for example, I should find another word. The word “very” is filler. It adds nothing.

* Saw. This word is often used to say your POV character perceived something. But if you’re writing in a character’s point of view, then everything is perceived through that character’s eyes anyway. There’s no need for me to say things like, “Maggie saw the sun rising”, when I can say, “The sun rose”.

* Watch for repeated words; each writer has her own favorites. I’ve seen “clearly” pop up multiple times per chapter in a published novel. It drove me crazy. 😉

A last pass over the manuscript before sending it for review will make it easier on your beta reader, and help you tighten your writing. I try to remember to do this before every critique submission. It makes the story read much better!