The bad writing virus

by Rachel

While reading a manuscript over the weekend, I was trying to pinpoint why the story didn’t work for me. I couldn’t find the words to describe what the author was doing, but, thanks to Nathan Bransford and his article on Huffington Post, I was able to identify exactly what “writerly germ” had infected the manuscript! The story had a bad case of the overstuffed sentences and description overload. I felt like my eyes needed a short rest after each sentence—this is something I’ve always disliked in writing. But I also can’t stand an entire novel written in shorter Hemingway clipped sentences; very tedious.

I’d love to hear what you think you’re guilty of as a writer!

12 Responses to The bad writing virus

  1. Elena Solodow says:

    Overuse of punctuation like colons and semi-colons. Every time I re-read something: I have to simplify. You see; what I mean?

  2. Nathalie says:

    In a first draft, my biggest faux pas is explaining things too much. When I go back and re-read, I'm amazed at how little credit I've given the reader! I don't need to explain every detail to the most finite of definitions!

  3. Taymalin says:

    Shorter Hemmingway. I'm not guilty of short sentences just in fiction, I tended to use them in my essays as well. I usually managed to pull off a B grade, but my essays were always far under the expected word count.

  4. BethDazzled says:

    I simply can't control the long dash usage. Of course, the fact that when I speak I tend to spring off into tangents–finding novel ideas in everything from commercials to nail polish color names (that one happened!)–may explain it.

  5. M.J.B. says:

    **Had to make a correction!

    In my most recent first draft, I noticed a few horrible things:

    1) WAY too much pointless dialogue, which I relied on way too much in a way I THOUGHT would forward the story, when it actually made the story boring as hell.

    2) Recycling certain "unique" word usages and sentence structures multiple times.

    These were the biggies, and it was quite a fun challenge to fix them!

  6. amy says:

    I have to second you on the overuse of description being a pet peeve. My first foul experience was with Hawthorne, and his pages upon pages of awfulness. I personally suffer from a love a parentheses and capitals. I attribute the former to a love of curves in general, and the latter to a fondness for raising my voice.

  7. Suzi McGowen says:

    Repetition. Definitely repetition.

  8. Jason Myers says:

    Have to agree with the overuse of description too. Just finished reading a Jack Reacher novel and without the longueurs of description, the book would have been half the length!

    But of course, when I write, I leave out too many descriptions. I have to go back in and add the things in my wee little mind.

    Get outta my way, description–I've got a story to tell!

  9. Kelly Wittmann says:

    I will often find myself "going Hemingway," but I've learned to recognize it and pull myself back. Still, better that than "going Faulkner." God forbid!

  10. Em-Musing says:

    I have RADD – Reader Attention Deficit Disorder. I tend to write short because I like to read shorter sentences. But if a story is compelling, I don't notice style, only substance.

  11. Stephanie says:

    Overuse of certain words.I didn't think I had this problem, but on yet another edit of my manuscript, it became glaringly obvious that I do. One word, just a little throwaway word that you wouldn't normally notice here or there, actually popped up twenty-seven times in my manuscript. Well, actually, it was more than that, but I stopped counting at twenty-seven because I was mortified, and so I started finding and rewording almost every sentence that contained the offending word. The whole thing was enough to make me break out in hives.

  12. Joanna St. James says:

    ha ha overuse definitely overuse of words I cant help it if am in love with a word can I?

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