Monday, September 13, 2010

Pet Peeves When Writing & Reading

You know you have them. That annoying itch you can't get to go away, even with the pricey anti-fungal cream you put on it, it just keeps coming back and back again and again. Reading books, I tend to find the same kind of irritations. Writing books, I notice certain things I do that make me want to yank my hair out a strand at a time.

One of my bigger pet peeves when reading is repetition or redundancy. Yeah, I mentioned them both to prove a point. I hate being hit over the head again and again with explanations of things I've already been told about. GET ON WITH THE STORY already. I'm not an idiot! I can figure it out, I promise!


I have issues too, though, in my own writing. I think as writers, we all do. You know, writing passive verbs more than you intend to. Making a hand do something you meant your character to do. Have some eyes dance across the floor (creepy image). Have the world "smile" a million times in your manuscript. It happens. One of mine is getting TOO close to my MC that the supporting cast are more like shadows instead of real people.

But the good thing is, eventually that fungal cream starts to work. The more you apply it, the better those breakouts get. The less they start appearing. Just like staying on top of reading what's out there and seeing what works and what drives you crazy (and obviously does not work), and continuing your own writing, improving your skill, and consciously realizing the little pet peeve mistakes you make. Correcting those mistakes to the point you don't have to remind yourself anymore. It's all about mastering the art of illusion in literary form. One itch at a time.


  1. The redundancy thing gets me too! I know I do it too, but man I hate it when I'm reading.

    Eyes dancing across a face might be creepier ;)

  2. I have no problem with eyes "doing things." I know what the author means, and the imagery works fine for me.

    However, I do find heavy-handed redundancy gets me too. Trust your readers a little. If you tell us once and show us the rest of the time, we'll get it.

  3. My pet peeve when reading is too much time spent by the author in giving such miniscule details of what they want us to see, that I actually find myself completely unable to picture it. I know what the inside of darn cave looks like. I don't need pages of description on one!

    My pet peeve when writing is that I tend to do too much edit and revising as I write on a first draft. I just can't help it. I know it makes me take longer to write the story, but I feel like it will make less work in the long run. If I know I could have said this line or that line better, I have to change it right then and there.

  4. To be honest, the repetition thing is really what bothered me the most about Twilight. I listened to the audio book because many audio books can make a "bad" book quite enjoyable and I wanted to give Twilight the fairest chance I could. But even while listening to the reader, who droned like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller, she couldn't hide the constant repetition of the phrases, "Are you scared yet?" and "He's so beautiful, devastating, gorgeous, etc.."

    I'm sure that many books, including Twilight, would be SO much better if authors didn't repeat the same phrases and information all the time.

  5. I think once we've identified the itch, it becomes easier to notice the warning signs, and head it off with that special treatment.

    Great post!

  6. Melanie- yes, I do the same thing as far as editing/revising goes, but I've learned to accept that's the way I work. The less I fight it, the less peevish it is ;-)

    Giles- YES! There was one book I was listening to, and the same phrase "____ looked grim." Or "____ smiled grimly." and it was always the same character. Everything was always grim with him! Ug.

    Thanks, Janna! I concur! ;)

  7. Ditto to all! I hate long description when I read, and repetition.

    when I write, I know I have lots and lots of repetition, mostly of body language. I'm guilty of those dancing eyes and skin that crawls and hands that do things of their own accord. LOL. My biggest repetition is "smiling" and "laughing". It used to be raising eyebrows and shrugging. I did a search and found out these people were a bunch of twitching fools! When I start editing, I change alot!

  8. Fungal cream! I am cracking up. What a great analogy. I need a very big tube. (too much smiling, for sure)

    And Giles. I sooo agree. The looking into her eyes with an intense, burning gaze, over and over. I got it, already. Had it the first time. Didn't need the other twenty. Got that he was hot too. Got it right away. I think that's one fo the things I loved most about The Thief. We really didn't know what Gen looked like- just wonderful little hints here and there- dark hair, dark skin. What i fell in love with was his personality.


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