7 Writing Habits That Bog Down Your Story

“Avoid on-the-nose writing.” —Jerry Jenkins

image by PixelAnarchy
image by PixelAnarchy

Here’s a passage from a book published in the 20’s: The Marriage of Barry Wicklow by Ruby M. Ayres. It contains 7 problems that bog the story for today’s reader. I’ve superscripted instances with the problem numbers from the list after the passage.

There was1,7 a moment of silence. Barry was looking2,7 at her with eager eyes. In a man’s indefinite way he was realizing2,7 vaguely3,4 that she had5 changed a great deal since he last saw her, though he hardly knew how or in what way.

Her hair was7 differently4 dressed. Her clothes were7 different3. There was1,7 something—a sort of flippancy about her whole manner that turned him cold.

“Good afternoon,” she said composedly4. She pushed forward a chair.

image by inez
image by inez

“Won’t you sit down?”6 Barry was remembering2,7 how Hulbert had said5 that she blushed whenever she was7 spoken to. There was2,7 no sign of agitation in her face now. Her blue eyes met his dispassionately4.

She was7dressed all in black, but such smart black, that somehow she did not look as if she were7 in mourning. Barry, glancing at her hands, saw that she no longer wore his ring, that she wore no rings at all.

He ignored the chair she had offered5. He went straight to his point.

“I’ve been7 talking to Hulbert—you know Hulbert. He tells me you are7 going on the stage under the management of that – that man Greaves.”

He spoke a little breathlessly6. “Well,” said Hazel. “What if I am7?”

“I won’t have it, that’s all,” Barry answered excitedly4. “You’re7 my wife, and I won’t have it3, I tell you3! The stage is7 no place for you. I told you when I first met you that I hated it. I repeat it now3, and I forbid you—I absolutely forbid you3—to have anything to do with it or that man Greaves3.”

7 Problems

  1. Weak opening “there was” surfaces three times.
  2. Progressive tense isn’t necessary and slows the pace; past tense works.
  3. Repetitive thoughts and dialogue mirror reality but bog down the story.
  4. Some adverbs are unnecessary or telling.
  5. Perfect past tense jars actions into “history.” Past tense works.
  6. Sentences placed in the wrong paragraphs.
  7. Sixteen forms of “to be” used.

One Rewrite

For a moment neither spoke. Barry scanned her lithe form. Since he last saw Hazel, what made her now seem like a stranger? For one thing, she wore her hair upswept and severer than the soft curls that once embraced her face.

Hazel’s gaze from her half-lidded eyes met his. “Good afternoon.” She shoved a chair forward. “Won’t you sit down?”

black-147098_1280Her flippancy iced his heart. What had happened to what Hulbert called the blushing woman? And, outfitted in her elegant ensemble, all in black, she didn’t look as if she was in mourning.

Barry glanced at her hands. She no longer wore his ring. She wore no rings at all.

He sidestepped the chair she offered. “I’ve been talking to Hulbert—you know Hulbert. He tells me you plan to go on the stage under the management of that—that man Greaves.”

Hazel arched an eyebrow. “What if I am?”

“You’re my wife, and I won’t have it!” Barry chopped the air. “The stage is no place for you. I told you when I first met you that I hated it. I forbid you to have anything to do with it—or with Greaves.”

Avoid these 7 habits that drain readers. Click to tweet.

What habits are you trying to break in your writing?

5 Things to Do When You Feel Maxed, Empty, and Pressed

“A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s just that it can’t buzz any slower.” —Kin Hubbard

image by svklimkin
image by svklimkin

We’re between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Time for commitments has been cut at least by a third to get ready for Christmas.

Earlier today, I was behind in my scheduled tasks. During Thanksgiving week, I was to brainstorm an idea for this blog. I lacked the desire to turn on my idea faucet, much less write a blog post.

image by lisasolonynko
image by lisasolonynko



I felt maxed, empty, and pressed.





What I did paid off so well that I wanted to share this encouragement with you.

Try these to rejuvenate yourself and enjoy the season.

1. List all the pressing tasks you must do and want to do.

I belong to an accountability group, so I make this list every week. The beauties of my list are:

  • My tasks seem less daunting on paper than they do swirling around in my mind.
  • image by jeltovski
    image by jeltovski
    I ask myself: If I were to axe one or two tasks to make the next few weeks easier, which would I choose? Then I lower the hatchet.
  • Once I schedule the remaining tasks, I forget them and concentrate on the current task.


2. Rise 15 minutes or more earlier than normal.

Depending on the time I retire, I rise as much as an hour earlier than normal. On purpose. Today, without interruption in the quiet house, I advanced ahead on a Bible study I teach, freeing up time for other things.

IMG_2498 3. Consult God about your day.

One reason I felt so discombobulated was that during the Thanksgiving week I omitted the special part of my prayer time when I seek God about what I’m to do. Today, I went to my knees. God gave me an idea for another blog post for a blog I’m a regular on. Also, I asked my accountability group to pray that I hear God as I seek Him. Now I expect things to go better.

4. Ask for help.

You may feel disconcerted because you don’t ask.

This morning a member of my writers’ group said she had no time to make the meeting we scheduled for December. The gathering sounded festive when we scheduled it. Now, it seemed rash. I asked others if they felt like this woman. Unsurprisingly, the meeting is cancelled!

I asked my husband to take care of a few tasks during the season and help me with others. He agreed. Cheerfully. 

Ask! Amazingly, tasks will disappear from your schedule.

5. Do one thing that will help in some way.

I still needed an idea for today’s draft. Because craft books and magazines supply ideas, I read an article in Writer’s Digest. Instead of a blog idea, I received sizzling ideas for my story. I became excited and invigorated. That’s when I wanted to share with you ways to escape the doldrums or the fire. Voila! A blog idea too.

While I did these things, everything contributed to my well-being. Now I’m revitalized, filled, and more relaxed.

Try these five ideas to escape from the holiday fire or doldrums. Click to tweet.

What has helped you make busy times manageable and less intimidating?