Old habits are truly hard to break even at the best of times. When I review some of my own work over the last few years, I see great progression. I have become a more experienced writer with an ever-expanding freelance resume.
I also see some old habits that still jump out at me long after something is written. Before I share some of those habits, let me take you back to what was my first lesson in noticing the habits of certain authors.
One of my 4th grade teachers was a big fan of Judy Blume books. The beloved American author of children and young adult books has contributed a wealth of great stories to the literary world. Her achievements are well documented and are worthy of a read.
When this particular would read sections from one of Blumes’ books, she would constantly change-up parts of the story where a character’s dialogue was complete in a line. Instead of Blumes’ lines of “Alex said”, or “I said”, this teacher would throw in adjectives so as not to sound repetitive. So her reading would be “Alex replied”, or “I explained”.
She made a point to tell everyone it was one of the few things about Blumes’ writing that annoyed her. The constant “saids”. In my own work this is something I work to avoid.
On reflection, I understand completely why Blumes’ absence of dialogue adjectives are written as they are in the first place. When she writes for her audience, she wants every reader to enjoy and understand her stories. She wants them to be easy to read.
Still, remembering this lesson in adjectivity reminds me of the writing habits I have that are actually annoying to myself and readers.
1. My seemingly constant use of brackets to explain the sentence before it. There are times when this is necessary on a freelance job depending on what the end result of the project is supposed to be.
2. Punctuation. I still find myself constantly referring to writer guides in order to clarify certain uses for punctuation. Even so, I still will let a few things slip here and there only to catch them weeks or months later. With punctuation, most readers never notice anyway but still it is annoying to find little errors like that post-publication.
What are some of the annoying writing habits you have and how are you trying to work on them? Comment and share.
William (Dann) Alexander is the author of “Planned UnParenthood Creating A Life Without Procreating” available at many online retailers worldwide, and the recently released collection of short fiction “Throwing Dice”, available through http://www.lulu.com, and at Amazon sites (as of December, 2013)