Monday, April 25, 2016

Tips and tags and writing snags!

     During my decades in the publishing business, I've learned a lot about the craft and written a few articles with tips on writing. Since the e-book revolution where authors have republished entire backlists, I've noticed the most common beginner mistakes (my own included.) I want to share them today along with questions for readers and writers.

My top 4 writing tips are: 1. Don't overuse proper names. In a scene with only two characters, trust your pronouns. 2. Avoid long, complex sentences. (I still have to rein myself on that one.) 3. Don't start your book by telling the entire backstory in the prologue or first chapter. 4. Don't overdo the dialogue tags. 

Which leads to my next bit of advice. The "ly" tags. 

I was never one to re-read books because I rarely forgot an opening scene or plot line. However, now that I'm a little older and my memory is a tad rusty (cough) I've enjoyed returning to those earlier favorites and re-reading them. One thing I've learned is even the most talented of the bestselling authors made the same beginners' mistakes. 

A couple years ago, I started publishing my backlist to audio, and I became addicted to audiobooks. I've found I notice those common mistakes more while listening to a story. With a print book, we often skim past tags and snags such as the overuse of proper names. (Ben went to the bank, then Ben came back and Ben answered the phone, etc.) 

My ears are more sensitive to dialogue tags. While listening to older titles recently, I noticed the overuse of tag lines with "ingly" and "edly" endings. Example: A character said something achingly, fleetingly, bracingly, piercingly, wonderingly, determinedly, disgustedly, offhandedly, and more.

So, the question for readers and writers, what's your take on the tag lines? Do you appreciate the descriptive adverbs? Do you use, overuse or refuse to use the "ly" words? Do they annoy you and pull you out of the story? Please feel free to share your opinion!


Hugs, Becky
BeckyBarker.com 
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10 comments:

  1. Well, this post should cause squirming all around. I haven't read my early stuff in a long time, but I'd venture to say there was a whole lot of everything you mentioned in there!

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    1. I know, Liz! I've done some revising on a few older titles and run into a lot of the no-nos!

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  2. Sometimes you have to use the "ly" words. Not as often as we tend to use them, of course. But our language contains adverbs for a reason. I think it's as much of a mistake to refuse to use adverbs as it is to overuse them. We need to look at the "ly" words, and try to find a stronger verb where we can. It's all about balance.

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    1. So true, Heidi. I favor them myself but try not to overdo. There's nothing wrong with he said, she said.

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  3. Great tips, Becky. I think there are some instances when adverbs can enhance rather than detract. The more you write; the more skilled you become so you know what to keep and what to delete during editing.

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  4. I agree, Joan. I'm fond of the ly words, but not so much on the "ingly" or "edly."

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  5. I have a very early work that has a lot going for it...erm...including swimming in ingly and edly. I open the file, take a few minutes to read then close it again. sigh.

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    1. Revising can be really daunting, Bonnie. I totally understand.

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  6. My very first editor at HarperCollins was the one who cured me of the nasty ly. But it still likes to creep in occasionally.

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  7. The ly creeps into my work, too. So do a lot of unnecessary "thats" and "justs" but I try to catch them in the final edits.

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