CLEAN WRITING. No, not what you're thinking.
Writing science research papers taught me the process of clean writing—manuscripts free of too many useless words. Useless words in a science paper are considered descriptive, emotional, and repetitive.
Science papers? "Just the facts, ma'am."
As a result, my first fiction manuscript was a failure. The editor told me my writing sounded like a textbook--every sentence perfect with a key idea followed by sentences of facts to support that important discovery.
That sort of hurt, but the statement opened a floodgate of words that's still gushing. I could use adjectives! And adverbs! And descriptions! But also…too many useless words and phrases.
Still, I absolutely love to embellish sentences with adjectives, adverbs, and well…a long list of writing errors. If I remove the useless words in the previous sentence, I think it reads like a textbook. Where is that fine line?
AVOID USELESS WORDS: We consider good writing concise, vigorous, and active. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, as a machine should contain no extra parts. Fine idea. But an automobile is a machine. The first cars were little more than a buggy with an engine attached. They were unattractive and uncomfortable. The automobiles today contain endless useless parts, but we buy them because of those extra appealing parts. We want those.
I do agree, though, certain useless words or phrases need to go.
1. "there is no doubt but that" should be "no doubt" or "doubtless"
2. "this is a subject that" should be "this subject"
3. "the reason why is that" should be "because"
4. "owing to the fact that" should be "since" or "because"
5. "he is a man who" should be "he"
AVOID USE OF QUALIFIERS: A qualifier is a word or a word group that limits the meaning of another word or word group. The worst offenders are rather, very, little, and pretty.
"I should do pretty well on the exam, for I am a rather brilliant student, but if I make very many mistakes, I'll try to do a little better."
AVOID LOOSE SENTENCES: A loose sentence is one consisting of two clauses, the second introduced by a conjunction or relative. Too many loose sentences in one paragraph will sound mechanical and singsong..as noted here:
"The last concert of the season was given last night, and the hall was filled to capacity. Jane Doe was the soloist, and John Smith accompanied her on the piano. She proved to be quite capable, while he performed admirably. The concert series has been successful, and the committee was gratified. The committee will plan for next year's programs, and they will offer an equally attractive program."
I could name an author who writes exactly this way, but that would not be nice. And...you are not that person. This person would not be reading my blog post....
The compound sentence is the framework of writing when used wisely and sparingly.
A kind editor—in so many words--told me: "You begin too many sentences with well, now, so, or why. In some cases, these words are acceptable, especially when included in dialogue. Southern people talk this way, but in written narration, use sparingly.
This made sense to me, because when I talk with a friend—on-line or face to face—those little words pop up all the time--like this example:
"What did she say when you said her hair was orange?"
"Well, first she stared. Then her eyes sort of bugged out, and before I knew it, why, she started bawling."
"Oh, my goodness. Now, here's what you should have said, darlin'. You just do not want to make her any madder."
"So, what should I have said?"
And so, well, I need to bring this post to a halt. I need to make a little lunch, because the fact is that my husband is mowing this morning, and he'll be starving. There's no doubt, though, that he won't say an unkind word to me if lunch if just a little late.
(If you can edit this paragraph, you will receive an A+)
What annoys you in a novel?
What mistakes do you commonly make?
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas