Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bass Ackward

Good morning, people of the blogosphere! How are ya?

Today, I'm going to talk about a few more things I notice when reading that, if you'll take care with, can make your book ten times better. Ready? Grab your coffee and notebook and let's get going.

First item on the table:
Afterward vs Afterwards (note this is not Afterwords! Afterward is an adverb meaning (1) at a later time, or (2) subsequently. Afterword is a synonym of epilogue—that is, a short addition or concluding section at the end of a literary work.)

I'm not talking about definitions here. This is about the use of the S on the end of the word.

Both ways are correct. However, use of the S is a preference thing even though the use of the S is a British standard and leaving it off is the American standard. Again, it's a choice. What I'm seeing is one usage of afterward and a later use of afterwards. That is wrong. If you're going to choose one style, stick with it. Same with backward, forward (Note there is no e in this word. A foreword is an introduction in a book or something you tell a person before beginning a story.), etc...

Consistency is key.

Second item on the table:
Redundancy and unneeded words. You can remove words and phrases like that, just, a little bit, almost, etc... Especially when you're saying something like this: She felt her legs go almost instantly limp. Remember my post on ly and take out the word almost. She felt her legs go limp. It's easier to read and kills the redundancy. Many of the ly words are redundant in nature; hence the reason they can be removed.

Third item on the table:
Paragraphs that jump POV. Some of the most skilled writers in the world can pull this off. You aren't there yet. Stick with one character's POV through as much of the book as possible. It's called head-hopping and it will chuck your reader right out of your story. To give a look through another character's eyes, add some extra space between paragraphs where the switch takes place, stay with that character for more than 200 words, then add extra space again when you transition back if you must. Oftentimes, the switch isn't needed.

Remember, your main character has no idea what other characters are thinking. It's possible for that main character to assume based on body language or facial expressions but please don't have them know unless they're clairvoyant. It comes off sounding like this to your reader:

I hope these tips help you in your writing endeavors. Use them when editing your work and see the difference it makes.

Is there anything you see here that reminds you of something you do when you write?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!



  1. Love these posts! Don't stop!

    1. Never ever will I stop! :) Thanks for the blog luv, Sandi!

  2. I battle with toward versus towards and backward versus backwards all the time. Grammar Girl says both are "correct" but as with your examples above, convention tends to vary based on geography. I'm not sure how consistent I am though. (Backward used as an adjective appears to be the exception.)

    Regarding POV, how prevalent must the head-hopping be before it's simply considered 3rd omniscient instead of violating 3rd limited? (I'm still seeing 3rd omniscient even in books published this year.)

    1. Hiya, Jeff! Welcome to the blog! I think if one uses realise, one is allowed to be backwards as well. :)

      3rd Omniscient is difficult to pull off because we tend to want to identify with one character or another and tend to focus on the part rather than the whole. Many books come off like the writer is attempting omniscient but they're really using limited with the occasional head hop. I classify a head hop as something that happens with no forewarning, reasonable length, randomness, and/or in the middle of a paragraph where I'm looking through this character's eyes over here and she's telling me what that guy over there is feeling. She can't possibly know.

      It's so tempting as a writer (I know because I do it and get blasted by my editor allll the time) to want to tell the story from everyone's POV. But that takes serious skill that not many writers possess.

      Thanks for the comment, I do hope this addition helps clarify my definition above.


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