Sometimes, before I start writing for a day, I look back at what I’ve written the previous day and mess around with it. Then I get annoyed at myself for committing the following crimes:
1. Using conjunctions at the beginnings of sentences. It’s not “wrong” per se, but I do it often enough that I really notice it as I read back over a scene. If you find yourself starting sentences with any of the “fanboys” (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), make sure you’re not doing it too often.
2. Abusing the word “just”. I don’t do this a lot in fiction writing, but I notice that if I’m writing an email to someone, I’ll use “just” as a kind of mitigator. Like, “it’ll just take an hour” or “I just looked this over for typos” – not “just” as in “I did it at that moment,” but “just” as in “only”.
3. Too many similies. Similies and metaphors are great rhetorical devices, but if you use them too much, they get irritating. A lot of the time, I notice that I use similies when I’m trying to be poetic – and the poetic-ness doesn’t usually work out.
4. Mentioning a character’s eyes. A lot of writers do this too often, and I’m consciously noticing every time I do it so that I can cut down on it. There are other facial features and other ways of expression than trying to tell how a character feels from the look in his eyes.
5. Overusing progressive tense. Today I had written a few sentences in a row that were like this: “They were running toward the door.” “She was biting her fingernails.” Changing those sentences to “They ran toward the door” and “She bit her fingernails” cut down on words and didn’t change my intended meaning. Only use progressive tense if you really mean that the action is progressive.
Are there any annoying quirks that you notice about your own writing? How do you stop doing them?