Writing Thursday: Learning and Unlearning; or, Old Habits Do What?

I’ve been deep into editing the first book of my Winterbourne series these past few weeks (as I–ahem–may have mentioned once or twice).  But the other day, when I went to open my file, my mouse pointer slipped, and instead, I opened a file containing one of my older (and very much unfinished) works.

Because I’d been so intent on my editing, I decided to give myself a little break and read a bit of it.  I figured I’d find a lot of the same things I’m trying to edit out of the current piece–passive voice, rambling descriptions, overuse of “was”, intrusive dialogue tags–only more so, and that it would make me feel better to see that I had improved at least that much.

This particular piece is one I started in college, as a sequel to one I wrote in high school.  The plot is very juvenile, and a bit hackneyed.  But one thing I found surprised me.

All those things I expected to see?  I found almost none of them.  Oh, there were a couple of instances of passive voice, but really, far fewer than I’d expected.  And there were a few rambling passages.  But really, would it be my writing if there wasn’t at least a little rambling?  I also found very few intrusive dialogue tags.  (You know the kind:  She panted, he gasped, she admonished, he ejaculated–oh, wait, different kind of story, there.)  In fact, if I say so myself, the dialogue tags were handled quite smoothly.

The other thing I expected but didn’t see was a lot of “was”.  (I did a posting about that a few months ago, if you need to see an example.)  Since I’ve had to weed quite a bit of it out of the current volume, I’d expected to see a lot more in my older work.  But I didn’t find very much at all.

So somewhere along the way, I picked up a bad habit.  I’m not sure why or how that happened, though one possible explanation is that the older story was written in first person, while the current one is in fairly tight third person.  Because first person is limited to what the MC is directly experiencing, there are a lot fewer opportunities for overuse of “was”.  Which is interesting to note, given that I generally prefer first person: I find it more comfortable to write, which means it also comes out more smoothly.

What bad habits have you learned, and then had to unlearn?


About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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