Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Writer's Wednesday: Some Writing Errors to Avoid

 I've been reading and listening to books more than I'm writing, but my writer brain is clearly turned on, because I've stumbled on--or over--some writing mistakes that I certainly felt shouldn't have gotten by the editor. 

The worst, a constant irritant in an otherwise pleasant (if somewhat saccharine) series, have to do with what I'd have to classify as info dumps. I'll call this one, "The dog had three legs, he remembered." The particular author I'm listening to (who I see no reason to name) has a tendency that I don't think I noticed so much when it was on paper, to use "John remembered that blah blah" in order to get info dumps out there. To make it worse, some of them don't really even matter to the story at any time. 

A subset of this, equally a clunky device for sharing background the reader may need but shouldn't trip over (from a different writer, whose works I also usually really enjoy), is, "She remembered she'd been meaning to ask about X." Apropos of nothing, we learn of something that suddenly will become important to know.

Back to the first author, another thing that's irritating me as that at times the books, set in an Irish village, read as though they are meant to introduce the American reader to the language, customs, and culture of Ireland, rather than just to tell a story. I wonder at times in an editor told the author he needed to explain all this stuff for then poor idiots across the pond. The result is lots of awkward leveraging of "he knew the Americans would call that soccer." (In fact, do I have hold of an edition meant for the US market, or is it all that way, because the sport is consistently referred to as soccer by the narrator and I think even the characters, which jars on my ear every time).

Enough of my ranting. I think it boils down to: if your backstory and local colo(u)r don't fit into the story organically, leave them the heck out! This is a hard one for me to believe sometimes, but: your reader doesn't need to know everything you do about the characters, the setting, or the history.


  1. We pretty much use soccer and football as synonyms. I’d tend to say football more. In fact I doubt if I’d ever say ‘Soccer’. The younger generation might...maybe I’ll ask them.
    But I’ve come across Irish-set books that are a treatise on Ireland too. Then again, I’ve learnt nearly all my history from novels. It just shouldn’t be so heavy handed.

    1. Totally agree about learning history from novels—but also don’t want it to read like a lesson. The book I’m ranting about is set in the 1960s so I’m positive no one called it soccer, and it was hardly known here, either.


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