Your Writing Tics

Hi all,

Just hit a new stage of the publishing process that I thought some of you might find interesting: line edits.

For those of you that don't know, line edits come after all the major editing work has been done. The story has been hammered into shape, the character arcs are working, all that big stuff. Lines edits are changes that live down on the word, sentence and paragraph level and they're where you start learning alot about your personal tics as a writer. And let me tell ya, it can be scary.

What have I learned? Well apparently...
  • I don't know when to use toward instead of towards.
  • I don't know the difference between farther and further. 
  • I think it's okay to spell okay, OK.
  • I love to compare things to ghosts, stars, birds and boulders. Seriously, I can't stop myself.
  • I sometimes go a bit metaphor crazy and should just let my verb choice do the work for me.
  • I have my characters use the words "a bit" way more than any real human uses them.
  • I have the ability to use the same verb 5 times in one paragraph without realizing it.
Trust me, I could go on and on and I want to thank the kick ass editorial team of David Levithan and Cassandra Pelham for setting me straight on things. It's amazing, if occasionally mortifying, to have a couple pros go over your work with such a find toothed comb. I'll definitely be keeping these kinds of writing tics in mind from now on. 

How about you all? When you look back of your own writing do you notice any little tics? Words or phrases you use over and over? Common grammar misunderstandings?


Jeff Hirsch
The Long Walk Home
Coming from Scholastic, Fall 2011


Find me at jeff-hirsch.com and @jeff_hirsch

15 comments:

kellyhashway said...

Jeff, line editing can really tell us a lot about how we write, and unfortunately it reveals our weaknesses. I can help with the farther/further issue. Farther is used for a measurable distance. If you can't measure it, use further. You further your understanding. You walk farther than you thought you could.
I notice there are certain words I use a lot. Sometimes I'll even spot the same phrase twice on one page. Cringe!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Funny experience: I'd been hearing from all our fellow Elevensies about line edits, so when my editor and I got through edit rounds (five? six?), I asked if line edits would be next.

"What do you mean?" she said. She's someone who does the big and small edits simultaneously, which actually worked well with my very spare 14,000 words of verse.

Stephanie M. Lorée said...

Um, I hate to say this but there is no difference between toward and towards. One is more American and one more British, and the AP claims that "towards" is dead... but really, they are interchangeable, so I'm not sure why you'd worry about when to use which.

Jeff Hirsch said...

Thanks for the tip Kelly!

And yeah Stephanie, the thing with Toward/Towards was a little unclear. In this case the reason they wanted toward and not towards is because it's Scholastic house style. I thought I was making a grammar mistake but it's just the way they do things.

Hey Caroline! That's interesting that there's no line edits for you. Kind of makes sense though, right? I think if I was an editor I'd have a hard time not doing both at the same time.

Stephanie M. Lorée said...

Jeff: Ah, that makes sense. I try to stick to toward as well, despite my tendency to lean towards British grammar.

See what I did there! :)

Scribbler to Scribe

lotusgirl said...

Completely. I'm working on them. I have a few southern tics. Which can be good and bad.

Angie Smibert said...

Evidently I use "though" QUITE a lot.

Dolly said...

I bookmarked this post. Need I say more? Fabulous, and I shall reference it when I have to remind myself to check for little things in my manuscript.

Mary Lindsey said...

Oh, boy. I just finished 4 rounds with my editor and am now awaiting copy edits. Not sure whether I'm excited or scared now. The toward/towards thing has me a bit nervous. ;) Thanks for sharing your tics.

Elizabeth Briggs said...

Towards is not a word? What??

Wow, David Levithan! You are a lucky writer!

Jeff Hirsch said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Well what I learned is that towards is indeed a word, however Scholastic's house style prefers toward so I had to change all my towards to toward. Apparently towards is British. Toward is American.

Yep! I am awful lucky!

Knighton said...

I think we all have the tendency to overuse words. I think mine is an overuse of the same transitional word: however. I do want to point out that you misspelled "a lot" in your post. Just in case it wasn't just a typo, here's a tip. I tell my students that there are two ways to remember that a lot is two words. You would never write "alittle" and if you wanted to say you like something a whole lot, you'd never spell it "awholelot," would you? I love this blog, by the way. I have pointed it out to some of my students as a great guide for their writing. Thanks!

Jeff Hirsch said...

Oh yeah I misspelled alot on purpose. To make a point! About,uh....something.

Thanks for the tip, Knighton. I'll keep it in mind. Funny how we all have these little blind spots, huh?

Thanks for coming by and for sending your students!

Knighton said...

There is one student in particular who is a fantastic writer. I knew she would appreciate your tips, and as an English teacher, I truly do appreciate reading a different perspective on writing. With all of the testing that is mandated, we teachers don't spend that much time on creative writing, so I'm glad that my students can use this blog.

Jeff Hirsch said...

Hi Knighton

If your students ever have any particular questions, or something they'd like us to talk about, just let us know. With all the posting we do we're always looking for topics!