Tag Archive - Christy Distler

Writing Mechanics: To Paragraph or Not to Paragraph

Today editor Christy Distler continues our look at Fatal Flaw #12: Flawed Writing Mechanics. We’ve looked at how novels are structured like mini novels, and explored sentence structure. Now we’ll take a look at paragraphs to see just what problems they pose to the fiction writer.

Earlier this month, Rachel talked about scene structure, describing how to write scenes as “mini novels.” Today I want to talk about another type of structure in fiction: paragraph structure. We’ve already looked at why white space is important, but to use white space well, we need to understand when to start and end a paragraph.

Here are some basic guidelines for paragraphing (in fiction):

  • Begin a new paragraph anytime the speaker changes. By starting a new paragraph, the reader will automatically know a different character is talking.


“Good morning, Joe,” John said from the next cubicle over.

“Hey, John.” Joe sat down at his desk. Continue Reading…

How Writers Can Trap Sneaky Weasels

This week editor Christy Distler takes on this month’s Fatal Flaw #11 – Pesky Adverbs and Weasel Words.

This month we’re discussing adverbs and “weasel words” in fiction. We’ve already talked about adverbs, so today I want to take a look at weasel words. What is a weasel word, you ask?

Merriam-Webster defines a weasel word as “a word used in order to evade or retreat from a direct or forthright statement or position.” This definition describes how weasel words are used throughout a variety of situations, but it has some truth in fiction writing as well.

In fiction, weasel words are not intended to purposely evade directness, but their use can certainly result in a sentence that lacks concise forthrightness. Let’s review the more common fiction weasel words:

  • Weak “to be” verbs: is, are, was, were, had, had been,
  • Superfluous words: that, very, just, really, rather, kind of/sort of, nearly/almost, quite, like, even, so, absolutely, usually, truly, totally, probably, actually, basically, extremely, mostly, naturally, often, particularly, started to/began to
  • “Telling” words: seemed, knew, thought, felt, wondered, mused

Continue Reading…

Writers: Beware of Body Parts Behaving Badly

This month our editors are tackling Fatal Flaw #10 – Description Deficiencies. Too many manuscripts are lacking essential description–of characters, setting, time or day and year, how much time has passed from scene to scene. These make for weak scenes and weak novels. Today, editor Christy Distler addresses a fun but serious topic–improper description of body parts. See if your writing contains this fatal flaw!

We’re covering description deficiencies this month, and today I’m going to talk about “floating body parts,” or FBPs. If you’ve been writing fiction for some time, chances are you’ve seen editors and other authors discourage their use.

Now, I’m not talking about the severed leg that washes up on the coast in a murder mystery—that’s a perfectly acceptable floating body part. There’s another kind of FBP that’s actually all too common in fiction: when a character’s body parts start acting of their own volition. While we’re at it, we may as well look at a couple of confusing clichés that can have multiple meanings too.

Here are some examples, along with some parenthetical snark. Continue Reading…

Page 1 of 41234»