Lazy writing

As an editor, I see many fine examples of prose, well-crafted and a delight to work on.

I also see more examples of what I call lazy writing than I’d care to name. What I mean by lazy is when authors slap a word into a sentence or a scene rather than taking the time to describe the thoughts or emotions behind it. Or they use one word far too many times in a book. Sometimes too many times on a page, or even in a single paragraph.

For example, if I ever see the words chuckled, snorted, smirked, sneered, scoffed, sweetly, naughty, hungrily and angrily again, I’ll be a very happy girl.

If you’re a writer, BE a writer. Don’t just say somebody chuckled, over and over again. Take the time to explore what’s so amusing. If the situation is ironic, take the time to explain why. If it’s amusing, share the joke. There can be a variety of reasons why somebody would chuckle. Do your readers a favor and take a good look at them.

Rather than saying that somebody snorted, explain the disgust or disdain behind it. People don’t just do these things. There’s a lifetime of experience behind every person’s actions and reactions. And your character needs to have a lifetime behind them. They have to exist as real people within your imagination before they can live and breathe within the minds of your readers.

There’s a fine line between fleshing out your character, though. I’m not saying that you should prattle off every single thing that’s ever happened to your character. Your readers will lose interest long before little Bitsy or Billy loses their first tooth — unless, of course, that’s integral to the scene you’re working on. If you’re writing a piece de resistance about the tooth fairy, then by all means, revisit that milestone event.

If your character is snorting in disgust at, for example, a racist remark, it would serve you well to mention that your fellow was raised in an environment where such intolerance was inexcusable. Or that s/he carries some of the blood being insulted, even if it doesn’t show. You can really explore a back-history, and not take up thousands of words doing it.

Smirks and sneers are powerful expressions. They can really be played with. There’s a lot that can go behind them. Smirks come from smart-asses and sneers generally come from assholes.Talk about potential for giving a character some depth!

If nothing else, instead of saying “He sneered,” you could instead say “The thought curdled his blood and made him want to vomit.” See what I mean? Explore that. Don’t just slap a word there without looking at why.

If erotica is your thing, find better ways to describe a lover’s actions than to fall back on “sweetly” or “naughtily” time and time again. That’s the height of lazy, poor writing. There are so many ways to describe an erotic scene without repeating the same tired old spank over and over. explore them.

There’s an entire UNIVERSE of words out there to use when you describe the world you’re creating on paper, limited only by your imagination. Dip into the pool of your vocabulary when you write. Jump in and swim. Go deep. If you just skip a rock across the surface and call it done, it’s not only lazy writing. It’s bad, and barely writing at that.

If you’re physically unable to be more creative than that, do one of two things. Either get your hands on a decent thesaurus and find some other word to use, or take up knitting instead.


One thought on “Lazy writing

  1. And, please, don’t just say that someone “stared in shock” or “gasped in disbelief.” Please, PLEASE describe what’s going on inside their heads, not just what’s showing on their faces. There’s a whole world of emotions, actions and reactions going on in somebody’s head. Explore it.

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