Monday, 10 March 2014

A Very Good Writing Lesson

Arrival of the Entries
 
For the past couple of months, I've been enjoying reading all the novels that I was honoured to adjudicate for the Scottish Association of Writers' Pitlochry Award - for a Romance Novel this year. Entries had to be between 10,000 and 15,000 words plus a synopsis, so there have been lots of lovely words and an interesting mix of themes and ideas.

I won't say anything about the novels themselves as I have to deliver my thoughts and results at the conference in a couple of weeks time, as well as provide a written critique for every entry. That has been an absolute privilege - I've only done this for short stories and articles until now. It reminded me how much I appreciated the detailed written critiques from the RNA New Writers' Scheme some years ago, when I was starting out as a novelist, and I've tried to be honestly constructive as well as encouraging and helpful. It remains to be seen if I succeeded!

An added advantage of reading other writers' work so closely is the fact it reminds me of what makes a reader want to read on, the kind of repetitions we all are guilty of to some degree but tend not to see in our own work, and how to make the best use of our wonderful language. For me, it's also been a valuable reminder about writing for a particular genre, so hopefully the entrants will agree with most of my comments.

Talking about repetition in general (and not the competition) - one word that many of us use to distraction is very. I'm very guilty of this - see, I hadn't even registered I was using it just now! If this is one of your bugbears, you might find this article on '45 Ways to Avoid Using the Word 'Very' extremely useful! Think I need to print it out and keep it beside me at all times.

What's your most repetitive word?

Rosemary

14 comments:

Frances Garrood said...

That sounds like a huge task, Rosemary. (At first I thought that was a picture of a large toffee. Sadly not.)

Teresa Ashby said...

That's very interesting, Rosemary - oops! And how lovely to be asked to read all those entries. I think my repetitive word is probably "lovely" x

Rosemary Gemmell said...

It's been most enjoyable, Frances, and a good excuse for procrastinating with my own work!

That's one of mine too, Teresa!

Wendy's Writing said...

When I wrote a post on words that people often repeated, last week, it was surprising how many different ones came up - 'very' being a popular one. Enjoy all your reading, Rosemary.

Joanna said...

That looks like a lovely task, Rosemary. The writers are lucky to have your critiques and I can imagine how valuable a lesson it is to read others' work.
I keep using the word 'absolutely' and am having to watch myself! xx

Rosemary Gemmell said...

You know, I must have missed that or it has worryingly gone from my mind, Wendy! On the other hand, I might well have commented on your post.

Thank you, Joanna - it's a good exercise for all writers and I do hope the entrants are happy with the critiques!

Patsy said...

'Some' is a word I overuse. I know I do, so I can find it and alter or delete where required. The dangerous repetitions are the ones we're unaware of, I think.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Oops - that's definitely one of mine, Patsy!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

'Some' I meant - not 'oops'!

Julia said...

So, when and just are my bugbears. It's often only when I read something aloud I notice the repetition.

Kate Blackadder said...

That is VERY useful, Rosemary. Now I need one to avoid 'just'.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I recognise those 'very' well, Julia!

You and hundreds of others, Kate!

Carolb said...

That pile will keep you out of mischief, Rosemary. :)

I have to watch out for 'well' and 'but' in my over-used words list.

Joan Fleming said...

I know my worst repetition is 'just'. Another problem I've identified is using 'form' instead of 'from'. Of course the spellcheck doesn't pick this up. I now do a search on these as a matter of routine.

Well done on your adjudication, Rosemary.