Now before we begin, I will say that these signs of amateurish writing can be easily fixed once you know what to look for. So don’t get discouraged, especially if you haven’t heard this advice before. Now let’s look at these signs of amateur writing.
- Using italics or exaggerated punctuation for emphasis. Because seriously how on earth will the reader ever know what I mean to emphasize if I don’t. Write. Like. This? Honestly, they will know because they have a modicum of intelligence and empathy enough to know which words have a stress to them. Trust in their intellect. Also, if it’s not clear, then you can use descriptions, like “he said the last word like steel.” You get the idea.
- Exclamation points!!!! You may want to use them. You may even want to use multiples of them or use them in tandem with a question mark to make the elusive interrobang. Do not give into these urges. Fitzgerald said using exclamation points was like laughing at your own joke. That’s not a good thing. It’s actually obnoxious to laugh at your own jokes. They say limit one per story. Use it wisely.
- Using dialogue tags other than said (or asked). Your characters should not eject, articulate, shout, or ejaculate words. These are hugely amateurish and distracting for the reader. This sort of intrusion of the author can be irritating for your readers. Said and asked are non-intrusive and the reader can just glide right over them. Stick to said and asked.
- Not knowing when you need a new paragraph. Whenever a new character speaks, you need a new paragraph. Whenever a passage of time is shown, you need a new paragraph. If you change place, new paragraph. New topic, new person, new paragraph.
- Relying on adverbs and adjectives. This is weak writing. Instead use strong verbs and concrete nouns. Paint a strong and clear picture with your words.
- Purple prose. Purple prose is prose that is too elaborate or ornate. In its flowery nature, it draws attention to itself, inserting the author into the story and becoming a distraction and a chore to slough through for the reader. Remember your descriptions should serve the narrative and push the story forward, not just exist to sound fancy.
- Head hopping. This is where the POV jumps from character to character without proper scene breaks or sticking to proper POV rules. Stick to one character POV per scene or chapter. Any character switches should be clear and keep each character POV so distinct and unique your reader will always know which POV it is.
If you’re guilty of these signs, don’t forget that good writing is rewriting. You can always make your writing stronger. What are your tips for avoiding amateur writing? Share below and happy writing.