Friday, January 22, 2010

Hints for Better Showing (Part 6 of 6)

Don't confuse best-selling authors with best-written books. Most of us know writers who sell big but it's in spite of their weak writing.

Here are two examples:

1. In David Baldacci's Simple Genius, a therapist talks to Michelle. The paragraph reads: "Michelle looked nervously away." He's a famous author, so what does that say? (p 97)

Answer: It says he got away with it. Being a best-selling author doesn't equal being an excellent writer. The sentence itself is awkward. He could have written: Michelle looked away nervously. (Nervously and away are adverbs and adverbs can modify other adverbs. As written, nervously modifies away, which I assume isn't the author's intent.)

Aside from grammar, he told us, and how do we, the readers, know what nervous is? We can read into the book words that aren't there, but (tsk tsk), Baldacci could have done better.

2. A famous author wrote a single sentence of dialogue and added, "he asked curiously." Clumsy writing at best, curiously doesn't show us anything. Does the writer mean the man spoke in an odd way? Does he mean the man was inquisitive?

Bad writing gets into print every day. Why do you want to add to it? Why don't you become a corrective voice?


  1. Cec,
    At my very first writers' conference, Alton Gansky told us, "Once you begin to write, you'll never read a book the same way again." How true. I'm always disappointed when I see poor writing in a book by one of my favorite authors.
    Your final point is one I should have embroidered onto a throw pillow for my office. Instead of picking nits, perhaps I should just set a better example for those who follow.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Since I started writing I notice things like that all the time. I can't read a book any more without editing it as I read.

  3. their is loTs of bad GraMmur at the jail wear i live at. it drive me nutts. i glAd you tellen us hoW too doo bettuR. ---jamEs


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