Improving Your Craft: Awareness of Bad Habits

DSC_1287In 2012, I began a book called Wings of Skell. During re-writes, it was
renamed Planes Shifter. As of May 2016, I own over 50 copies of the draft manuscript, and it’s currently called Darkening Skies.

I’ve been pretty good at completing two novel manuscripts a year — I can finish stories, which is one of the biggest blocks for writers. But the editing process is definitely something I want to streamline. So far this year, I’ve done a full read-through of two different works-in-progress.

Grammar Habits

In first drafts in particular, I’m focusing on the story — I don’t worry overly about grammatical aspects. However, this often means that I need to re-write large chunks of my scenes as I don’t vary my sentence lengths. Equally, I use a lot of the word “as,”  which leads to passive sentences of all around 10-13 words.

Plotting Issues

Until I found a plotting method which worked for me, I used to complete manuscripts at speed; filling in gaps with whatever was in my head at the time. This led to pretty predictable storylines, with ‘cool twists’ which I then found it difficult to go back and justify. They often had a ‘deus ex machina’ feel, which when justified, became quite obvious. It took me a few novels to fix this – planning a few twists from the beginning, discarding the first ‘cool ideas.’

Editing versus Rewriting

When I began editing, my main focus was on rewriting. There’s something about knowing exactly which path the story has taken that makes me want to add in little hints and re-write very early scenes to capture the new tone. However, the character as I’ve been writing them recently (at the end of the story) is often stronger in some way; through power, knowledge or inner strength and re-writing their thoughts without that arc is a particular difficulty for me.


Having these habits is not the end of my writing, but it is something to be aware of. And like most things, these bad habits will shift. I grow as a writer, and with more experience, my key issues will change. The main thing is to be aware of them and flag up any known issues as early as I can, making the edits at the end much smoother.

What are your key issues when looking back at an early draft?

How do you handle those habits?

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