writers / writing

#IWSG What would make you quit writing?

This post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out. The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month’s question — What would make you quit writing?

This is a good question. It could be lack of time or my brain ran out of stories but a bigger reason would be my own writing bores me. Here are suggestions for making sure your own writing doesn’t bore you or readers.

BTW, if this sounds familiar, I posted it during the launch of Against All Odds  August 2020. I’ve made a few changes which you might notice:

***

When my novel becomes boring, here are five constructs that are often the culprit. I keep each discussion short. If you would like to dig deeper, there are many great writing websites and books that make that possible:

Passive voice

Passive voice moves readers out of the action and puts them in a safe place to the side of the action. They become unaffected by the action and the plot, more of an observer. That’s deadly for a story. We want readers sitting in the middle of events, worried everything will blow up around them. Plus, passive voice often weakens the clarity of what’s being written.

Solution: Rephrase the sentence so that the action noun becomes part of the subject. For example:

Wrong: The grass has been scorched by the wild fire.

Right: The wild fire scorched the grass.

Too many prepositional phrases

What happens when you have too many? 1) the reader loses track of what you’re trying to say, or 2) the sentence becomes unnecessarily convoluted. Look at these examples from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Writing Center:

Unnecessary phrase: The opinion of the manager
Correction: The manager’s opinion

Unnecessary phrase: The obvious effect of such a range of reference is to assure the audience of the author’s range of learning and intellect.
Correction: The wide-ranging references in this talk assure the audience that the author is intelligent and well-read.

Chicago Manual of Style recommends the use of only one preposition per ten-fifteen words.

Solution: 1) Delete the prepositional phrase. Does the story lose anything? 2) Break the sentence into multiple sentences. 3) Use active voice instead of passive. 

Qualifying words

Qualifying words include a bit, little, fairly, highly, kind of, mostly, rather, really, slightly, sort of, appeared to, and seemed to. They don’t draw a line that when crossed, creates drama. They equivocate which weakens your story and your message.

Solution: Replace these words with decisive ones. Take a stand.

Had

The past perfect tense is a menace to the creation of drama. It removes the stress of the action because we know it’s over and s/he is safe. That’s not how to build drama.

Solution: Let readers feel the drama and then the solution. 

Participles and Gerunds

According to Purdue’s Online Writing Lab, “a gerund is a verb that ends with -ing (such as dancing, flying, etc.) and functions as a noun.” … A participle also ends in -ing but forms the progressive tense of a verb. When you have too many of either in one sentence, readers lose track of the action and the meaning.  As a writer, I know they sap the energy from my writing but I couldn’t find a grammar rule to explain why. Susan B. Weiner did offer this:

“Shorter sentences are easier for readers to absorb.”

That’s part of it. Gerunds also make sentences less direct so harder to comprehend. Geist explains:

“They will not take you to the simplest, strongest, most beautiful prose. …[They] make the sentence less direct and harder to comprehend than it can be…”

Solution: Figure out what you’re trying to say and then say it directly.

Long sentences

I had a colleague in my critique group tell me not unkindly that she had become used to my long sentences.  What she could have added but didn’t was that at times, they made it difficult to remember how the action started. Here’s an example:

The many independent clauses makes it easy for readers to get lost and miss what is being said.

Solution: Break the sentence into manageable pieces that stand on their own.

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If you’d like to find a great group of authors–Indie and traditional–come join my Book Blast for Laws of Nature on July 15th (the link isn’t active until then). I have a wide variety of great writers helping me out. You’ll love their blogs and books!

#amwriting #IndieAuthor #iwsg #amwriting @TheIWSG


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Summer 2021.

100 thoughts on “#IWSG What would make you quit writing?

  1. Your answers seem to be about what would make you abandon a project, or take a break from it, not absolutely Quit Writing for good. As for the latter, I think that most of us would answer: I’m not capable of doing that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing!.. when am I going to quit writing?…when my heart stops beating…. 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Seriously, Jacqui, this is an important post. I really needed to read this. Now, if I can only remember it when I write. Truly appreciate the post! All best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I find myself frequently guilty of the long sentences and have to actively work to shorten them, especially when it’s a tense scene that I want to move along swiftly. There’s an example of a long sentence for you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. HI Jacqui, an interesting post. I also quickly learned to break my long sentences into bite sized chunks. I have seen a few responses to this question. I am sure I will stop writing one day when the obsession ends. It has been like that with all my obsessions. I think I still have a few books in me before that happens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Part of it depends upon your story. Mitigating words are weaker, which is good if you want a weak character or a questioning plot. Mine are always about surviving. Never good to mitigate in those!

      Like

  6. I’ll never stop writing. Been there, tried that. I always come back.

    Great writing tips! I despair that basic grammar doesn’t appear to be taught n our ultra hip relevant school curriculums anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This post had me laughing all the way through, because I am guilty of all the things that bore you in your writing! Your published books are anything but boring. I’m going to visit The Denver Museum of Nature and Science next week, and for sure I will go say “Hi” to my favorite Lucy. She and you are forever linked in my mind now. I hope that you have had a fun IWSG Day!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. To my mind, that is an unfair question Jacqui. A true writer could never quit consciously unless circumstances compel him. Only health issues may alienate him from his passion. Thanks for sharing some nice tips.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I don’t think there’s anything that would make me stop writing unless it was some type of physical ailment that made it impossible. Writing is much too ingrained in my personality and my life and has been since grade school. There are times when I have lulls in my work, but even then I’m plotting or thinking of writing.

    Nice collection of tips!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Those are all issues that would make me stop reading someone else’s writing.

    I’m like you. I don’t know if I can think of something that would make me stop writing. Or stop trying to write. There are days the words are poor. I might take a break until the following day. But I can’t think of anything that would make me abandon the vocation.

    Great take on the prompt, Jacqui.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point. Me, too, about the ‘issues’. And stop writing–do you find even on those days the words are poor, sometimes you go back and see a lot of meaning in them? Maybe that you wouldn’t have been able to write on another day? Odd. isn’t it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Interesting question. I make a distinction between writing for work and writing fiction and poetry. I can’t tell you the number of times I have said to a colleague, “When I start boring myself, I know I’m in trouble.” I use all five constructs you note above to fix it. As for what would make me stop writing fiction and poetry, that would be developing dementia or losing my eyesight.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Hi Jacqui – some very appropriate aspects of writing here … keeping it simple seems sensible. Looking to helping you with your Book Blast … cheers for now – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dear Jacqui,
    interesting. I fully agree with you if you want to write mainstream. Whereas I prefer literature that keeps me as a reader distanced, Brecht used to call it the alienation effect (V-effect). I read mostly postmodern authors. This literature makes it clear that it’s literature that takes place within the reality of literature. Instead of identification, I enjoy much more the critical distance or the romantic irony. Of course, this all depends on what kind of reader you would like to like your writing.
    Thanks for sharing your ideas of writing.
    Have a happy day
    Klausbernd 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s very interesting. I’ve always wanted to put readers into my prehistoric worlds, beside my characters, struggling with them. I’ve never considered keeping them distanced. That helps to bring sense to books I read where I feel as though I’m standing outside, watching through a window. That’s probably the author’s intent.

      Something for me to think about.

      Liked by 1 person

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