Wanting to be a successful writer one day, this hardest thing for me to do was admit that I don’t know everything about the industry. There’s a lot to learn, like how many drafts to write, how many words should be in a novel, and what to say to an agent in order to get signed.
The biggest lesson that I think I have learned so far? Everything that I learned about writing in my high school English classes will not help me get published.
I know, this sounds weird, but it’s completely true. In English, they taught me the “proper” was to write. How to use adjectives and adverbs, when to use colons and semi-colons, and to use all of those transition words often for all sentences.
Why is all of this wrong, then?
Well, for starters, I’ve been told over and over that adverbs are evil. If it ends in -ly, you shouldn’t use it. Sounds weird, right? In seeing many examples, I can understand it, though. For example, “He silently spoke to the slowly moving woman, briefly hoping for ….” etc, etc, but so many words ending in -ly create a horrid repetition. Not only that, but words like silently and slowly are small words that describe very little. By taking out adverbs and replacing them with other words and phrases, playing with the order of your sentences, you can describe a lot more in the same sentence.
There is also a lot to learn about how to us adjectives. First, it is highly recommended to stay away from using words like is, was, are, etc. Why? Because these kinds of words limit your use of the adjectives. For example, “The dog was hairy and jumped…” would likely be better as “the hairy dog jumped…” This seems simple, of course, but only because I am having a difficult time coming up with a better example off the top of my head at this moment. But, in longer sentences using words like is, was, and are would stretch it out, make it monotone and boring. However, like with adverbs, removing those words and rearranging the sentence makes it far more interactive and interesting, and allows you to say far a lot more with fewer words.
Another interesting thing that I’ve learned is that when looking at the length of your sentences, you shorter is better. The fewer words that you use, the more that your sentences will say. Not just in general, but the more action in the scene, the shorter that you want your sentences to be, that way they will keep the action’s pace moving quickly. It really helps to keep a writer engaged. For this reason, a writer wants to avoid using colons, semi-colons, and other sentence connectors. The longer the sentences, the more the story drags, and the faster you lose your reader’s interest.
Obviously, considering the long sentences of this particular blog post, I still have a ways to go before I can master all of these tricks. However, acknowledging what I need to learn is the first step to moving forward. So, while editing my stories, I know where to focus a majority of my attention, now. Good luck to me!