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Discussion Starter #1
There was a thread like this many moons ago, and I'd sure love to do another one, updated with everyone having developed their skills even more and new authors joining the Writer's Cafe every week...  Last time I learned a lot about mistakes my editors weren't catching that were also things I was doing, for example, not going nuts with adverbs (I still use them, just not as much), repetitive word usage, etc.

What are the common mistakes you make as a writer in your writing?  Here are some of mine (add yours if you want!):

1.  Biggest one:  repetitive word usage.  This means, using the same word or root word over and over in the same paragraph or sometimes even in the same sentence.  Exaggerated example: "He looked at what she was looking at, and it looked scary." 
2.  Using the phrases "began to" or "started to".  Most times it should be left out.  ex:  "He started to run."  vs.  "He ran."
3.  Overuse of passive voice
4.  Forgetting commas before a person's name, when they're addressed in dialogue.  ex: "What do you think, Bob?"
5.  Too much "turned" or "shrugged" or "rolled her eyes"

Anyone else have some I should be watching out for?

 

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My list:
Highlight: (* match word & case) not* ly ing would should could may* might* can* cannot* can’t* a bit about* a little almost* like* already* appear approx close to even* just* then* kind of now* pretty* quite* rather* seem so* some sort of there very* down* over* had been by means of


Filter phrases:
hear
feel/felt
saw
watched
sense
realize
wonder
thought/think
sound of


Overused words that might slip in:
bombastic
harrangue
jeer (jeeringly)
sneer (sneeringly)
gyrate
hue
incredibly
proliferating
shockingly
coax (coaxingly)
cajole
sudden, suddenly (everything can't be sudden, I'm sorry. Some things just happen without any suddenness at all; most things, in fact.)
decadent
anything that ends in -ingly (ok sometimes, for some people--but not for you. Sorry, you just lost your privileges.)


Crutch words to watch out for:
a number of (change to “several”)
about (e.g. “about three feet tall”)
about to
actually
almost
alright (should be “all right”)
and
anyway
as
been
began/beginning to
being
end (result)
even
felt/feeling/feels
gerunds (nouns ending in "ing" at beginning of sentence)
going to
got/get
had (had been)/have/had/has*
-ing to (double verbs)
just
laughed
like
-ly (adverbs)
manage to/managed to
notice (verb)
of
of course,
okay (should be OK)
over (to convey quantity – use “more than”)
pretty (as a qualifier, not meaning “beautiful”)
really
realize
seem/seems/seemed/seemingly
smiled
so
some
somehow
started to
still
such
that
then
to
very
was/were/is/are (passive voice)
well (in dialogue)
 

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Having your main character address the reader by name and then launch into a 68-page monologue history of the enchanted realm of Etherea-land, concluding with a very elaborate ancestry diagram, maps (especially the insides of buildings) and an exhaustive list of animal species.

Including insects.
 

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So far, the most frequent mistake my editor finds is commas. They tend to multiply. Maybe it's a French thing.  ;D
I also have some french-isms and word misuse, but not as much as I thought I would.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
DDark said:
I'm sure that helps no one. I don't sell 1 million books a year to be giving any kind of advice. ::)
It helps me. And you sell a bunch of books, don't be so modest!

Anyone who writes and gets edited can give advice here. I've already learned stuff just from these few posts. :)
 

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Most of the searches I use in editing have been repeated above, but I do have one to add.  I do a search for every word combination that can be turned into a contraction -- was not to wasn't, for example -- and when they appear in dialogue I convert them.  It's more authentic to the way people talk.  Unless the character is meant to appear more formal, or it's a particularly emphatic statement.
 

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Plain old wordiness. After material sits for a while, I go back and find many sentences that could be more to the point. Too many prepositional phrases, too many crutch/filler/hedging words ("really," "just," "actually," etc.). I also tend to overuse dashes.

In terms of particular errors, I have to watchdog words/phrases like "a while" and "any more." Not only do I tend to type the wrong version while composing (even when I know the rule), but it turns out I *didn't* know the rules on several of them when I wrote the first book. I've gotten to the point where I periodically look up random stuff I'm sure I know ... because maybe I actually don't know it after all.

Writing fiction has been a healthily humbling experience, and it's made me a better writer.


 

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Oh, boy, am I a word repeater. And my pronoun reference needs help too, a lot of the time.

I also have this tendency to put commas before 'and' even when the two predicates share a subject. I always have to take those out.
 

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breath/breathe - always get them wrong. 

I started studying Japanese about 5 years ago and spent most of the last 2 years living in Japan, on and off.  I swear, it's been driving the English out of my brain.  I'll just look at regular English words now and they don't make sense or I'll have to look up some really simple word.

Well I'm blaming the Japanese study anyway, not old age!
 

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Just got back my draft from Bethany at Last Draft Editing (thank you kindleboards), so I'm now qualified to answer  :)

Tenses, tenses, tenses. I always have a hard time keeping tenses consistent, and even though I've went through the draft many times until my eyes glaze over, there are still plenty of errors. I'm sure Bethany wants to ship me off to grammar camp  ;D

Incorrectly punctured dialogue--everywhere.

Telling instead of showing. I know this is a fundamental rule in writing; I need to stop being lazy and work harder. It's so much easier to summarize what people think instead of engaging them in dialogue and action.

Inconsistent POV. It's mostly third person limited, but sometimes I drift off into omniscient land.

And Nathalie, I'm obviously not French but I do have occasional comma errors  ;D

But even with all these mistakes, I'm glad my problems aren't glaring plot holes or weak characterization. Those are much harder to fix. Right now, I find myself enjoying cleaning up the story and adding bits of extra stuff here and there. It's easier than staring at the blank screen when I was writing the first draft  :)
 

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I mainly have apostrophe wars with my editor. 'It's' versus 'its.'

They've taught me a lot of the things that folks have already listed above, from info-dumping through to adverb-abuse. Now we mainly do hand to hand combat over the correct placing of the apostrophe :)

My MS Word says one thing, my British-ish upbringing says another, and my Editor says a third thing. Confusion reigns, especially when typing at high speed and trying to remember which is supposed to be the correct one.
 

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I get a little creative trying to avoid repeat word usage.

As an example, the word "walked."

I go nuts trying to insert "strode, ambled, skunked, motored, maneuvered, stalked..."

I also hate the word "said." I'll do just about anything to avoid that word, which often ends up distracting from the dialogue.

Comma splices - what more needs to be said.

Hyphenated words - I get crazy using hyphenated words, such as: "She looked up at him with an expression of how-dare-you, and began to scream."
 

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kathrynoh said:
breath/breathe - always get them wrong.

I started studying Japanese about 5 years ago and spent most of the last 2 years living in Japan, on and off. I swear, it's been driving the English out of my brain. I'll just look at regular English words now and they don't make sense or I'll have to look up some really simple word.

Well I'm blaming the Japanese study anyway, not old age!
Kathrynoh, are you pronouncing English words the Japanese way? Like, sounding like a bunch of katakana characters? :)
 

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Yowsa, Martyn, leave us some words to use, will ya?

I try to avoid words and phrases that throw people out of the story.

I have no problem with using plain old "she said" , "he said" because the reader picks up the info and glosses over the word to stay in the story.

At times that does mean using "quickly" or "saw" because using ten words where one will do can simply shout "look at me, I write good, eh?" instead of letting the reader live the story. This is especially true for action and other fast-moving passages.

I do have a problem with "nodded", "glanced", eye dropping and "looked" which I use too much.
 

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Aya Ling said:
And Nathalie, I'm obviously not French but I do have occasional comma errors ;D
Mine, are, unfortunately, not, so, occasional! :eek:
My commas are like rabbits, if left alone they reproduce during the night, I swear! Then I have to fox them off. :p
 

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I don't use a thesaurus enough, which means I sometimes get too many of the same word in one page (I had a hard time taking out kisses and lips in Black Sheep 1). On the other hand, I seem to finally have been able to get a handle on my comma use in fiction. It seems my new way of writing prevents me from putting in too many.
 

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I just turned on my computer and saw this thread and looked at it. It turned out to be just about the best thread I've looked at, on the subject. I just wish I could see my way clear to turning out prose with a few less instances of my favorite words. Looks like I've got a little ways to go.
 

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Kathrynoh, are you pronouncing English words the Japanese way? Like, sounding like a bunch of katakana characters?
Not quite, but I do tend to use "terebi" and "conbini" a lot in English! Not in writing though.
 

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kathrynoh said:
breath/breathe - always get them wrong.

I started studying Japanese about 5 years ago and spent most of the last 2 years living in Japan, on and off. I swear, it's been driving the English out of my brain. I'll just look at regular English words now and they don't make sense or I'll have to look up some really simple word.

Well I'm blaming the Japanese study anyway, not old age!
Don't worry, I'm Dutch but for the past couple of years I've been living in the UK and my Dutch has been going down the drain steadily. It doesn't help that English and Dutch sentence structures are different in some cases either :p
 

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I need to read more threads like this. Or go look up some of my grammar issues. ;)

Overuse of words is a big one with me. I'm very fond of
amazing
incredible
oh

as well as starting sentences with Now.

I always have to go through changing things to put the contractions in. When I write the first draft I don't think in contractions at all. Then I go back and look at it and it sounds far too stilted.

Finally, comma use is a big problem. When I first started writing, I barely used them at all. Now, I overuse them. :sigh:
 
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