As I get older (there’s that cliche again), I find myself developing more and more ticks. You know — odd behaviors that can often drive one mad. I try and be cognizant of these oddities, for many can be eliminated by just paying attention.
I have restless leg syndrome, so I drive myself crazy by constantly swishing one leg back and forth once I get in bed. I also have some A.D.D., so I often call myself the fidget queen.
Oddities aside, I also find myself victim to writing glitches too — ticks that can only be caught by conscientiously rereading what I’ve written. These errors shine a glaring light when I read others’ pieces, but I often don’t catch my own fingers in the grammatical pie until too late.
Check yourself to see if you have any of these unconscious writing ticks:
- Semi-colon king or queen. Every time someone speaks, and adds something to their sentence, I find the need to semi-colon it. The forever pause, it seems. I reread a story the other day and deleted or changed more than half of my dramatic pauses.
- Added words. Like that (She remembered that she once went to school there…) or and then (She washed her face, and then walked to the kitchen, and then took a cup out of the cabinet). Almost like a stutter.
- Fragmented sentences. I am the queen of these. It IS my writing style, and I know professional writers caution against it, so I try and make more of my fragments into full sentences. Which is hard. Because that is the way I write. Like this.
- Keep your dialogue consistent. My murder mystery was a test for me: I wanted to see if I could write a story from 4 different points of view, along with a narrator. As the story went on, I found the 4 different dialogues blending a bit into each other. Keep your characters separate. Make a list of their quirks and writing styles right off the bat, and uphold those standards throughout the book. Wear a hat or draw a moustache on yourself if it helps keep you in character.
- Pay attention to words. Like my funny, good friend Carrie Rubin (http://carrierubin.com/) said on Twitter: “Oops. Found a “pooped” instead of “popped” in my manuscript. Big, big difference there.” I replied that I once wrote “breasts” instead of “beasts”. You can imagine. Read outloud if you must. But double check.
I know you all know all of this. I know all of this. But yet my fingers and brain always move faster than my abilities. When you’re excited about what you’re writing, it will happen to you, too.
Just think of what would happen if you didn’t spell p.u.t.t. or p.u.c.k. quite right…