Writing about Writing

Bad Habits

As I go through the editing process on my novel, I’ve noticed I have a number of bad habits in my writing.  This isn’t surprising, everyone has bad habits, both professionals and amateurs.

For example – I’m reading a novel by a favourite author of mine, Steven Erikson.  He’s published over a dozen novels and, in my opinion, they range from great to amazing.  But I noticed something recently that surprised me – he has a habit of writing run-on sentences.  On some pages, I found paragraph long sentences broken up by a half dozen commas!

Now, I don’t want to insinuate he’s a bad writer or I’m better than him in any way, because A. I think he’s amazing, and B. I could only dream of writing like he does.  I just think that, in the grand scheme of things, littering your books with paragraph long sentences probably qualifies as a bad habit.

I have a lot of bad habits.  I managed to pick some up on my own during re-reading, the rest had to be pointed out by my beta-readers.  Here are some of my most common problems:

  • I overuse the word “just”.  I just can’t help myself.  I cut my usage in half during editing.
  • There was over 130 uses of “there was”.  I’ve trimmed it down to less than 20.
  • It seemed to be ok at first, but I also realized I overuse “seemed to”.  I had over 70 instances, and it’s been trimmed down to less than 10.
  • “That” is a generally extraneous word that I kept typing when I didn’t need to.

The good news is the above problems are easily fixed.  Whoever came up with the ‘Find’ command deserves a giant hug.  Seriously.

There were other problems, of course.  I had a few sections where I was telling instead of showing, so I ended up writing in entirely new scenes to compensate.  Those kinds of problems take a lot more time and effort to tackle, but they’re worth fixing.

What about my readers?  Do any of you have bad habits in your writing?

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3 responses

  1. I think I overuse “I think”, and I definitely think I overuse the word “definitely”.

    July 8, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    • I was just reading your comment, and there was, it seemed to me, some ironic habits that you displayed as well 😀

      July 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm

  2. I have lots of bad habits! Habits are hard to break, but we can retrain our brains in order to break those less “attractive” ones. Easier said than done as the brain naturally follows the path of less resistance hence we do the same things over and over (good or bad) because it’s what our brains are use to and find it less difficult. So it’s just a matter of forcing a new and improved path until that becomes the new habits. You are on your way! Enjoyed the ironic injections of your bad habits while explaining your bad habits. 😉

    July 8, 2014 at 2:10 pm

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