What's Your Writerly Weakness?
Written by
Lynn Turner
August 2017
Written by
Lynn Turner
August 2017

Some writers are unicorns...or seem to be. Flawless style, incredible voice, enviable wit...and a grasp of industrial standards that seems firm, even from their debut novel. Others, like yours truly, took the crash course--and I do mean crash, possibly followed by burning. For me, it happened during the querying process (rejection, sometimes with helpful feedback), and again during endless series of edits and rewrites when someone finally said "yes." 

My writerly weaknesses, my author-isms? The word "as," too many adverbs (words ending in -ly), and that damned point of view change (head hopping). Each of these seem to be carnal sins on their own, if googling is to be believed, so being guilty of all three made me a scourge on the Authorly Name (House Auctor, because I'm obsessed with Game of Thrones). Those revisions to my manuscript were painful. Thankfully, I had a veteran editor, with the best sense of humor, and eventually we whipped my story, and my technique, into shape.

On "as": It's passive. I'd write something like, "She tilted her head, chewing her lip as she stared absently into the sea of foot traffic." My editor's revision would be something like: She titled her head and chewed her lip, staring absently into the sea of foot traffic."


::takes Xanax:: 

::starts over::

Okay, but seriously (ha!), just use in moderation. If there is one word to capture what you're trying to achieve with an adverb, replace, replace, replace. Example: She cried wretchedly = She sobbed. Example 2: He walked quickly = He hastened his steps.

On head hopping: Famous, highly-acclaimed authors are guilty of this (Kathleen Woodiwiss, Nora Roberts), and every forum or blog I've read gives mixed views on the topic; however, the consensus seems to be that changing point of view within a scene (or even within a chapter) can be jarring for readers.

An author must remain in one character's head long enough for readers to become invested, to establish stakes, and develop the character. Also, only the protagnosists point of views should be shown. That means no secondary or tertiary characters should have a point of view. Their point of views have to be revealed in other ways, such as dialogue or action.

I will dance to the beat of my own drum concerning POV change...which means I'll use my spidey senses to discern whether or not I've remained in a character's POV long enough to reveal what needs to be revealed, and when it's time to reveal something about anotehr character. This means determining which protagonist has the highest stakes, and writing from that character's POV.

What are your writerly weaknesses? Your authorly-isms? 

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  • Alex Benkast Promoting

    Overusing "as" is also one of my writerly weaknesses. Not being a native English speaker, prepositions and tenses are giving me the hardest time, though.
    Nora Robert's head hopping was the reason I couldn't finish one of her earlier books, Tonight and Always. Changing POV within a paragraph gets too confusing. I did a lot of head hopping in my very first draft, but now I prefer to stick to one POV per scene.
    One thing my editor pointed out was that I had too many "when" sentences in which I stated the effect before the cause.
    A book that has helped me a lot before I had the resources to hire an editor was James Scott Bell's Revision and Self Editing for Publication.