Monday, April 18, 2016

Newbie Corner - Research Snafus and Other Pitfalls

I've either made the following mistakes or read books containing them. Here are a few nuggets to help you avoid them:

1.  One of my drafts for The Moses Conspiracy included my characters going to Washington, D.C. and getting on line to tour the White House. It sounded good, but it was wrong.

A chance comment by someone at work exposed a fatal flaw. I'd failed to research the procedure and didn't know you had to get special tickets from a member of Congress. Apparently, getting those tickets is more difficult than I thought.

2.  Another pitfall I've seen writers fall into is what I call, "too techy for the average Joe." I read a book with intense engineering details, but I skipped over chunks of it because I couldn't understand what the author was saying.

3.  Too much or too little description of the character's surroundings can result in the "yawn factor." Sprinkle in description throughout the story. Roses are not just roses, they're red or pink or some other color. As characters talk, they're perhaps walking along a beach with sand squishing between their toes.

4.  Endless dialogue makes my eyes glaze over. Break it up with action. Let your characters catch their breath. Even if they're giving a speech, you can have the sound system give a high-pitched squeal. We've all heard that happen in real life.

5.  I like cliches, the word, "that," and certain pet phrases. My editor had a field day (oops, better re-phrase that one) - I mean a red-pen fiesta with them. Do a search through your Word document for recurring words. You'll be surprised at how often you use them. A Thesaurus is a great tool for finding an alternative to your favorite words.

Writers:  What are some of your stock phrases or words you tend to overuse?

Readers:  What are some of the things that send you over the edge when reading? For a time, decorating programs on TV kept using the word, "whimsical." It became a joke with our family, not to mention a distraction from the ideas the host was sharing.

Photo Credit:  Uffe Nielsen


Jeanette Levellie said...

What a great post, Susan! I could list twenty pet peeves that annoy me as a reader, a couple of which you mentioned--too techy for the average reader, repeated words, lack of research into the background. Another one that drives me crazy is when an editor does not catch a homonym--a word that sounds like another, but with a different meaning. I recently came across the phrase, "She peaked through her curtains," when I'm sure the writer meant "peeked." When the acknowledgments listed several editors, I wondered why none of them caught it.

The worst example of an "oops" I've seen lately was when the writer said a character had a "tinkle in her eye." I laughed out loud, but if I'd have been the writer or editor of that book, I would have groaned!

Karen Lange said...

I'm told I use a lot of commas when I write. And well, yes, I do! :) Have a great week!