Lessons Learned #5

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I received my second novel back from my proof reader this week and, although I have made improvement, I still have a long way to go to write English the way it should be. The most common mistakes I made were:

  • wrong location of the adverb
  • wrong tense
  • repetition of words

Location of the adverb

When using the middle position of the adverb, I often put it between the subject and the first verb in the sentence, but, I realise now, if there is an auxiliary verb and a main verb it should go in between those.

Wrong: I often have been doing it wrong.

Right: I have often been doing it wrong.

To me both sentences sound perfectly normal. But that’s just me. And that’s why I kept doing it wrong. Now I know this is a trap for me and I will have scrutinize every sentence before I hit the ‘save’ button in the future.

I found this website particularly useful regarding adverbs; very concise and clear.

Wrong tense

What I also did wrong was using two different tenses in one sentence, in particular the simple past and the past perfect simple. I have this problem mainly when I want to describe a flashback. I can’t find a set rule as to where you move from the past perfect simple into the simple past.

Example: She had spoilt herself that evening. She had poured her favourite wine and drank it with pleasure. Then she ate a lovely piece of camembert cheese on a cracker.

Note that in the first sentence the tense is past perfect simple (had + past tense of verb), setting the scene of the flashback (that evening). This in contrast of the simple past that stories are normally written in. The second sentence contains two different tenses, which is wrong: ‘had poured’ is in the past perfect simple, and ‘drank’ is in the simple past. You should stick to either the one or the other in the complete sentence. Some people say that you should do the whole flashback in the past perfect simple, but when your flashback takes a few pages this doesn’t seem right. I normally go back to simple past in the second or third sentence of the flashback. If anybody can tell me that there is a specific rule, please let me know!

Repetition of words

I could actually say ‘repetition of names,’ as this was part of my problems.

Example: Jack looked at Jill. Jill glanced at John. Jill liked John.

A better way of writing it would be:

Example: Jack looked at Jill. She glanced at him. Jill liked John.

Note that in the second sentence the names are replaced by the corresponding subjective (she) resp. objective (him) personal pronouns, as there is no doubt here whom we are talking about. In the third sentence the names are back again. This is to make it clear we are still talking about these two persons. You could also write ‘She liked him,’ but that would cause a repetition of words again. (Note that ‘also’ is in between ‘could’ and ‘write’ in this last sentence 🙂 ).

I know that in my last Lessons Learned (#4) I suggested everybody using a thesaurus. It appears I didn’t head my own advice! However, I must tell you that I handed in my novel two months ago, which only shows how much I have learned in a short period of time.

One of the most corrected words was the word ‘said’. He said, she said; it does sound boring. Hence I want to share with you some of the possible alternatives you can use instead of ‘said’:

Stated, shouted, exclaimed, spoke, uttered, repeated, cried, cheered, reassured, sighed, murmured, voiced, declared, stated, announced, remarked, commented, added, replied, responded, answered, whispered, mumbled, mouthed, claimed, insisted, told, suggested, revealed, expressed, mentioned, gushed.

So next time, don’t say it but spray it!

Have a Wonderful Writing Week(end)!

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