Tag Archive - Rachel Starr Thomson

Building Blocks: Avoiding Weak Sentence Construction

This month our editors are tackling Fatal Flaw #3: Weak Construction. Often fiction sags and wilts due to lackluster word choice, uninteresting or incorrect sentence structure, and use of passive voice and vagueness. Editor Rachel Starr Thomson kicks off this month’s flaw with an introduction to the topic.

Annie Dillard wrote that one who wants to be a writer should like sentences. In reality, I think, most of us write because we have stories to tell, but the love of words (and sentences, and paragraphs) must come into it, or else we would all be making movies instead instead of writing books.

Along the way we learn that not every sentence is created equal: that our words and how we string them together will give life to the stories we tell or drain them dry.

Thankfully, while natural talent and a good ear certainly help, good sentence writing is not some mystical skill that only the most devoted Jedi will ever attain. This month’s topic is weak sentence construction—or more specifically, how to avoid it. Continue Reading…

Nothin’ Happenin’: Finding Your Story

This month our editors are tackling Fatal Flaw #2: Nothin’ Happenin’. Rachel Starr Thomson introduces the topic, showing how writers often fail to get right into a scene’s present action, which is important in order to engage readers. Backstory, excessive narrative and explanation, and too much character musing can stall a scene. 

Openings are a science unto themselves, be they openings for an entire book, for a chapter, or for a scene. One principle, however, is generally agreed upon: it is best to open with something happening.

We might take a cue from the Bible here: “In the beginning,” we are told, “God created the heavens and the earth.”

We can surmise that in fact, God did several other things before he created. That he took some time to think, to plan, to survey the darkness and the deep—whatever was in existence at that time—or whatever other wonderful things might have gone on in that cosmic brooding that preceded the creation explosion. But the Book opens with action. Continue Reading…

The Forest for the Trees: How to Cure Overwriting

Welcome to our new, exciting course for the year! Four editors are going to delve into The 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing and help you learn to identify and correct faulty writing that can weaken your fiction. You learned last year how to construct a solid novel, but if your writing is flawed, your book will fail.

With every post giving you Before and After passage examples, you will get a clear picture of what not to do as well as how to spot and fix such travesties. Be sure to join in on the discussion and share your thoughts and examples (both good and bad) to help your fellow writers. And ask questions if you need elaboration. We want to help you be the best writer you can be! So let’s begin!


Editor Rachel Starr Thomson tackles Fatal Flaw # 1: Overwriting

When you put pen to paper, it’s fully possible to underwrite. To fail to say what you meant to say. But just as possible, and more common, is overwriting—the tendency to say too much, in too many words, and crowd out the forest for the trees.

Overwriting takes many forms.  Wordiness. Overuse of modifiers and weak sentence construction. Vagueness. Redundancy. Convolution. Pushing metaphors so far beyond the breaking point that they cease to be enlightening and become ridiculous instead. Purple prose. Continue Reading…

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