Tuesday, April 20, 2010

To be or not 'TO BE'...

Over the past few months, I've been writing like a fiend and now have a pair of big projects close to completion. As part of that, I have sent these projects around to get feedback from other writers. One is a script for a pilot and one is a chunk of novel. In that process and in getting back reader notes, I found that I have a bad writing habit that appeared in both jobs. That habit undermines the quality of my work toward the final projects. Here is the killer bullet point from the script notes that sums up the bad habit-

- Don't use any form of "To Be". Everything needs to be active. "Catalina stands," "She answers her chirping cell phone..." that kind of thing, instead of "is standing" and "is answering."

"I was doing the same thing in my novel." Just like that last sentence. Reread it. It needs to be more like... "I wrote the same way in my novel." So now, I'm going back on a polish draft to remove the weasel words and ironing out the passive sentences. That simple change makes a big difference.

Are you guys aware of your bad writing habits? And how much did it sting when they were pointed out?

(Rather than look at my mug, I thought you'd all appreciate a Scott Campbell drawing of Captain Hammer. Enjoy.)


  1. I'd like to think I'm aware enough of my bad habits that I can usually spot them on a second pass through the material. What's interesting to me is that the more I get into the "flow" of the work, in the zone, if you will, the more my bad habits go away. Interesting.

    Something that I've always been grateful to CWSB 1.0 was getting those harsh, blunt "You've GOT to stop doing X or I'll kill you" notes from Roberson. Sturges and Willingham were usually more gentle in pointing them out. And I never took it personally. I learned a long time ago to separate a comment on my writing from some sort of personal attack.

  2. I am kind of aware of my bad writing habbits and one of my habbits is that I don't get straight to the point, instead I will write this long paragraph and by the ending of the paragraph you would final get to the point that I am trying to get across. Another bad writing habbit that I have is sometime I try to use big words to make myself look smart..LOL But sometimes I would not know what it mean....