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Do You Agree With This List?


KoKoa_B
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I've been M.I.A. for a while... and we'll just leave it at that! A lot has been on my mind and one of those things has been editing/revising stories. I've been a chicken wuss as far as asking for help but someone was nice enough to leave me a concrit on another site that prompted me to further research the "how to's" of writing.

Anyway; I came across this article that actually pertains to blogging but I figured that it could be applied to story writing as well. The author lists 297 words/phrases that can be either omitted altogether or revised in order to make your writing stand out. Was just wondering how many of you agree with this list and if there are any other flabby words/phrases that he left out in your opinion.

http://boostblogtraffic.com/weak-writing/

I applied this to one of my stories and it cut a little over 700 words in a 15000 word story. There's about seven phrases that I have yet to comb through because they were frequent in the document. A lot of the sentences made more sense once I did this edit but there were a couple of phrases that I couldn't see cutting out or revising, particularly in dialogue.

What do you think? Do you think that this author is mostly being a nit-picker or is he pretty dead on?

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One of the things lists like that don't take into account is author voice. For creative writing, as opposed to blogging or writing textbooks/technical manuals, every author has a voice, a personal style. Stephen King abhors adverbs. George RR Martin takes delight in killing off as many characters as possible in as short a span as can be managed. Ray Bradbury strings together words until they become music. But all of those differences are why readers love them. It's their voice.

I think a writer needs to care about good grammar in the narrative portions of a story, while dialogue can be looser. I think worrying about repetitive use of certain phrases is fine, and looking for alternatives to the more common action phrases (he looked, she smiled) is wonderful. But I also think that worrying too much about conforming to a checklist runs the risk of ruining that voice. If you've ever done that little test to see who you write like, it's our quirks that make us sound like one of the "name" authors, not how well we pare out the forbidden words of the moment.

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Also, writer voice is not speaking voice. If you try to follow the rules of grammar while writing your dialogue, you're more likely to end up with something that sounds stilted or forced.

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it may sound strange but when writing fiction you want a little flab, its the way we talk. Mr Shane is correct if all you are concerned with is either technical or informative writing, less is more in these types. But flab in recreational writing is good, it softens the story and makes it more conversational which actually holds peoples attention; don't believe me? Use this list on your favorite book, just one page, then on something like a math textbook. See which one has more flab and then ask yourself which one you'd want to read on a rainy saturday. I know, some of us would rather read the math book - but we're weird!

Just remember that no rule works everywhere - generalizations are bad!

Edited by magusfang
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I somewhat figured that. I knew that the article was more geared towards professional writing, especially when I was going over some of the phrases, thinking "if I take that out then the story wouldn't be my own". There were a few things that I felt the author was being a bit too picky on, even for technical writing!

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Looking at the article, the writing points brought up pertain more to technical writing. I wouldn't read fiction with that phrasing. It would be boring. In technical writing, less is more. Conciseness in technical writing helps to make it easier for one to reach the desired end result.

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Congrats on cutting your 700 words! If that made your story tighter without losing what you wanted to express, I'd say the exercise was time well spent. (Ha! I stopped myself from saying "definitely time well spent", in light of the article's advice.)

Mostly when I read blog articles like that I keep in mind that the blog author's goal is to increase hits to his/her site, therefore, content that is opinionated enough to get bookmarked and discussed, ie. to bring in more page views, is good. Could the author have cut a bunch of flab from that overly long list of phrases and made his post more readable, yet less bookmarkable? .... Uh, yeah.

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I agree with some - especially the redundant phrases and nominalizations - but disagree with others. Adhering to this list will make your narration sound more formal, while ignoring them will make it sound more conversational - it's your choice, with the caveat that some readers will like more formality while others will like less. As previous posters mentioned, writing dialogue should sound more conversational, because it is conversation, unless the character is intended to sound otherwise - military / academic or otherwise erudite / snooty / etc.

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No, I don't agree with it. A lot of those turns of phrase are removed from their context, which makes all the difference. In fact, I'm of half a mind to write a series featuring an item from that list every time.

Also, because I saw it and it bugged me. This. Please don't do it.

Big – Weak adjective. Replace with something more precise. Ex: He was a big man. Better: He was six feet tall and 250 pounds.

If you use numbers in fiction, write them out. i.e. He was six feet tall and two-hundred and fifty pounds.

It would also be better to say he weighed two-hundred and fifty pounds.

Ok... morning rant over. Sorry about that. In my own defence, it's early, I have work and the painkillers haven't kicked in yet.

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Being precise like that makes your story sound like a police report. Who ever heard some one go: She was six feet two and a half inches weighed one hundred three and one quarter pounds, had a D cup.... well you get it

Normal conversation would be more like: She was over six feet tall and probably around a hundred pounds, yeah real skinny...but stacked!

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Actually, that sort of description works in narrative, which is how Dafdes presented it. In conversation, it goes more on the lines of: :"He was fecking huge. I mean, I'm five-five, and he towered over me. Had to at least six feet. The fecker was nearly as wide as he was tall, too." :D

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I tend to use the story telling technique for the narrative, kinda like someone is sitting with a group of people telling a story. So even my narrative is more conversational then some, I just think it reads easier.

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A lot of those turns of phrase are removed from their context, which makes all the difference. In fact, I'm of half a mind to write a series featuring an item from that list every time.

Indeed - context is key. The list reminds me a little of a meme floating around that gives "X number of tips for writers" wherein each of the tips uses a grammatical or rhetorical construction ironically/hypocritically. Ex: "Passive voice should be avoided." "Always avoid alliteration."

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  • 2 weeks later...

I guess I did jump into that article head first and spent painful hours combing through one of my stories using that list! When I reread it, I saw that much of my own voice was gone. Grant it, my voice sounds like a twelve year old basic fangirl's voice but it was gone nonetheless! It's a good thing I have the original and first revision saved on the hard drive; I used a bit of my common sense and opened a new file to do these "revisions"!

I'll go over that list again and not force myself to abide by it in its entirety! Or... just stop having panic attacks and find a beta! Either way; thank you for giving me your opinions!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I like my flab while writing, but I call my writing style "STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS" (insert echo-y voice here), it's first person and essentially a running commentary from inside of the main character's head. I think it needs flab for authenticity. I also think if you take out all of those words on that list you end up with something that sounds an awful lot like a term paper and not a work of fiction. Those are actually words we were told to cut out in university while writing essays. Sooo I guess if you like that sort of clinical run down, whatever floats your boat or gives you a stiffy.

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I always look at it like this, write like you speak. In first person you're writing someone's thought so yeah there should be as much extra crap as normal people use in speech, in fact gramer and syntax be damned, who speaks english good anyway?

As for thidr person, I always envision the narrator as some old guy sitting around a campfire telling a story; sure you want things a little more gramatically correct but you still want it to sound human.

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I always look at it like this, write like you speak. In first person you're writing someone's thought so yeah there should be as much extra crap as normal people use in speech, in fact gramer and syntax be damned, who speaks english good anyway?

As for thidr person, I always envision the narrator as some old guy sitting around a campfire telling a story; sure you want things a little more gramatically correct but you still want it to sound human.

Huh. I was told not to write how I spoke! O_o Maybe I'm too southern/country/ghetto...?

Anyway; I found another method to help me out a bit and it seems to work. Coupled with two online editing software, I should be okay... :)

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Huh. I was told not to write how I spoke! O_o Maybe I'm too southern/country/ghetto...?

Anyway; I found another method to help me out a bit and it seems to work. Coupled with two online editing software, I should be okay... :)

Whoever told you that is an idiot, look at the greats, Mark Twain, Salinger, Lee; they all wrote in a nerritive that was fairly close to how they spoke, regional idioms intact. What you know best is you and your world, use it. A good rule says write what you know.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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