My Bad Writing Habits

I’m currently editing the fifth draft of my YA drama A Song For Bill Robinson. The fourth draft was edited on my Kindle, with me making notes on typos, words, and phrases to cut. Overall, I thought it was pretty good when I went through it on my Kindle. Almost there. On this current draft, however, I have totally changed my mind, because I can now see how many bad habits I have! And it’s so weird, because I don’t seem to spot them until I get to about fifth draft stage. Interesting! Anyway, I thought I would share them with you. And then you can tell me yours!

  1. Over-explaining – I don’t realise I am doing this in a first draft. I don’t even spot it on a second or a third. But eventually, I see it. Usually about now, when I am trying to get the word count down. I over explain things. I do this in real life too. My husband has a habit of quoting Tim from Spaced when I speak; ‘skip to the end…’ I am forever saying, ‘yeah, I know, I said that already.’ This isn’t too bad when talking to people, but when writing books? This is very bad indeed! Here’s an example… ‘And it was he who had suggested she stay the night. It was he who had talked her out of cycling home or going back to her dads for the night.’ (See? Too much explaining. The second sentence is not needed!)
  2. Repetition – This is similar to over-explaining but much more repetitive and needless. Again, I only notice this when editing a later draft and trying to delete unnecessary words. Here’s one I just picked up and this is typical; ‘He didn’t know. He didn’t have a clue and it was driving him crazy.’ You see, I really didn’t need to repeat the fact he didn’t know!
  3. I write too much – My word counts are ridiculous. This is a very bad thing because publishers don’t want to look at manuscripts with excessive word counts, and a lot of readers are also put off by them. It’s also bad when it comes to editing, formatting and revising. And it’s because I do too much overexplaining and repeating myself. I really need to get better at writing shorter books.
  4. Swearing – I’m getting better at this. I’m trying to rein my foul-mouthed characters in and make sure any curse words are absolutely necessary. One day, when I have the time, I will go back over all my old books and delete some of the swear words.
  5. Making Characters Frown – Ugh, so annoying. Again, I don’t realise I am doing this when I first write the book. But on later edits, it is revealed to me in the most cringe-worthy fashion, that there is way too much frowning going on!
  6. Making Characters Raise Their Eyebrows – Very annoying when you read it. There are many, many other ways to imply expression on a character’s face. I cut tons of these out as I edit again and again.
  7. Sighing and eye-rolling – So embarrassing, but it’s true. You think I would have grown out of this by now. But no. For some reason, when I write a first draft, all my characters sigh and eye-roll constantly. I have to calm them all down on later edits. It’s okay to be silent and still!
  8. Trying Way Too Hard To Make The Reader See Exactly What The Character is Doing – eg; ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea,’ Andy was shaking his head and blowing air out through his nostrils.’ Wait? What? Why did I feel the need to mention the fact he is breathing? Of course he is breathing, and the reader is well aware of that because he is talking and shaking his head. Nothing else needed!
  9. Not Bothering To Research Vital Things Because I Am Too Impatient To Get the First Draft Written – I try to kid myself that this is a good tactic. I am writing! I am getting words down, getting the story out! I don’t want to break that precious flow by stopping to research something as small as how a person is actually signed out from hospital! No, I’ll do that much later. (And then find out that I have to rewrite the entire scene…)
  10. Adding Pointless Needless Words That Do Nothing – eg ‘Andy watched rather helplessly’. He’s not watching rather helplessly. He’s not feeling rather helpless or rather that. Rather is a really horrible word actually and I am never, ever using it again.

Well, there you have 10 of my bad writing habits. Of course, there are loads more, but I didn’t want to bore you by waffling on, which is another bad habit of mine! So, come on then. Be brave. Tell me your bad writing habits. We can cringe together!

12 thoughts on “My Bad Writing Habits

  1. The over-explaining and repetition sound like what I do when I’m really into a piece of writing. It expresses a kind of rhythm in the prose, and in scenes where drama is needed, it can be effective. It’s a matter of degree, of course. As for frowning, eye-rolling and sighing, people (including readers) do those things, so seeing them in a book won’t cause them to quit reading. Sometimes it’s better to use a simple word (She frowned) rather than a convoluted expression (She pulled her eyebrows together so they almost met at the top of her nose). On the other hand, if you have frowns, eye-rolls and sighs in every other paragraph, changes are in order.
    I’ll be working through a first draft soon, so I’ll be keeping these points in mind. Becoming aware of one’s writing habits is the first step to fixing them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed it is! Good luck with your first draft Audrey. And I think you’re right, in a first draft, the over-explaining and repetition is needed to get the story out. It’s quite satisfying cutting it all down later though! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I know your books are long, Chantelle, but sometimes repetition can be like a rhythm. I guess the trick is to know when it is and when it isn’t but you seem to have a good idea. Endings are mine bete-noire! I don’t like to dot every it and cross every T and therefore like to leave them open-ended but I know this can annoy readers! I do try and research as I’m going along now but it does disrupt the flow for sure but I feel I used to rush at it, now I think I’ve gone too much the other way and bogged down in notes that I can’t find!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t have a problem with ambiguous endings. Yes, that’s the other issue with actually doing research when you should, you could go off down rabbit holes for days!


  4. I wouldn’t cut out all your supposed repetition, because as others have said, it lends a rythym to your prose and makes up part of your authorial voice. If you suddenly became terse I’m not sure it would feel the same. On the other hand, sometimes the repetition or over-explaining comes in the form of characters thinking about the same thing over and over in different scenes, when usually the reader gets it the first and second time. That’s maybe what I would concentrate on more. Your stream-of-consciousness style needs to have a natural rythym, though.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I thought I was rather good and that I didn’t repeat myself or ramble on with sentences that are too long and give you the same effects as an asthma attack when reading them making you frown and roll your eyes in disgust wondering what the bloody hell I’m rambling on about in a rather long rather silly rather annoying comment.
    Phew. If you acknowledge your bad habits you can rectify them. I think we could all do with making our own list of 10 bad habits. For me I just get side tracked rather a lot, did you know Chopper Bikes we nearly £36 in 1970, or so I’ve been told.
    What was I on about……?


    1. 😀 Thanks for reading and commenting! Yes, I think you’re right, if we can at some point notice our bad habits, then we can start to look out for them! Ooh I remember Chopper bikes! We had one in our family!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s