A real animal taken from a fantasy. I wonder if its horn gets in the way as it tries to swim.

...smiling as if she were happy

I recently read a book where the author used the words "as if" an awful lot. The problem is not the words themselves, but how he used them.

"He grimaced as if he were in pain."

"He screamed as if he were angry."

"He shook as if he were scared."

"She smiled as if she were happy."

Ugh, after the fifth time in the first chapter, I rolled my eyes. I did a lot of eye rolling while reading this book.

The problem is that this author wasn't using "as if" to create a metaphor. He was using it to tell what he had just shown as if we couldn't figure out that smiling meant happiness and shaking meant fear and grimacing meant...

You get the idea. Rather silly really.

Not-So-Helpful Writing Advice

Have you ever shared your writing endeavors with someone who doesn't write? It usually ends with some ignorant advice.

"You need to read this book because
this author knows how to write."

Implication: ...and you need to learn.

For someone who refuses to read anything I write, who doesn't write himself, who hasn't studied the craft, that was some of the worst advice ever. Sure, reading is a good way to improve the quality of your writing, and I did need to grow. But that wasn't what I needed at the time.

Besides, I had no desire to read that book after that.

"You should write a children's book.
There's a lot of cute books out there."

I'm working on writing YA fantasy and science fiction. I've worked really hard on my craft and building an audience. Now is not the time to try to change my direction.

"Getting published in a free anthology
isn't going to help your writing career.
You have to get paid for your work to
be considered by a publisher."

What a way to rip a person apart.

"Your character should be more angsty."

I have two characters in this story, both characters have faced the same painful experiences. One is angsty. The other snapped and went insane. It was the insane one that they thought should be angsty, and that totally didn't fit the character or the story.

Had any experiences of busybodies telling you how to write when they know nothing about writing? Please share.

Edit the Ego Out of Your Work, Part 4

Once I've written my first draft, added scenery, and fixed my dialog, I work on wordsmithing.

1. Watch your sentence patterns. No two sentences should have the same pattern and cadence within a paragraph. Use simple sentences, complex sentences, compound sentences, complex compound sentences, fragments to keep the words flowing.

A sample from my story Symbiote to be published in the YA anthology Unlocked in August:

Standing on the highest roof in the city, I leaned over the side and peered down. Far below me, clouds swallowed up the lights and noises of the city. My hands clenched, nails digging into my palms, tears streaming down my face. Lost. Alone. Empty. I felt as if the world had devoured me and left me to die.

2. Watch for echo throughout the paragraph, the scene, the story. Cut out or change words to keep things fresh.

I recently read a battle scene that contained the word titanic twice and titanically once. The whole scene sounded riciculous.

3. Watch for similar subjects within your sentences. I read a book where every sentence had the POV as the subject.

Thomas looked around the room. He saw the book on bedstand. He wondered what it could be.


4. Watch for weak verbs. Words like was, were, seemed, looked, had, etc. make for very boring prose.

"Darkness crawled along my skin" is more active than "The room was dark."

5. Watch for too many words.

He smiled at her.