Some Things NOT to Do

In addition to avoiding bad moons, here are some other things to avoid doing in your writing.

Avoid Tom-Swifties/Said-Book-isms.  These are those exciting dialog tags that you were probably taught to use in grade school because “said” and “asked” are boring.  Your dialog should indicate mood without having to use “he screamed,” or “she whimpered.”  If, in taking these out, your dialog stops working, you need to reevaluate your dialog.  The one exception is that you may use fancy dialog tags if the mood of the speaker is contrary to the mood of what is being said.  “Thank you,” she snarled.

Don’t use adverbs.  In general, if you must use an adverb, you’re using the wrong verb.  Strengthen your verb and the adverb will become unnecessary.  Instead of “walked quietly,” use “tip-toed” or “crept.”  Some editors will cross out all of your adverbs as they read, while others are more lenient.  Avoiding adverbs will, in general, make your work stronger.

Don’t be “The Eye of Argon.” Just don’t.  If you can read this without seeing any problems with it, you need help.  If you can read it out loud with a straight face, find a science fiction convention; you can win a drinking game that way.  Do read “The Eye of Argon,” though, for it’s one of the best lessons on what not to do as a writer.


About Hilary B. Bisenieks

Hilary B. Bisenieks (Biss-en-yex) n. 1. An author of fact, fancy, and opinion based out of Oakland, CA. 2. A graduate of the Creative Writing program at Warren Wilson college and Mary Robinette Kowal's Short Story Workshop. 3. A man unable to be trusted to update basic biographical information with any regularity. View all posts by Hilary B. Bisenieks

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