Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sunday Musings: May 18 2014

Hello everyone! How are you doing this fine weekend? For those of us here in Canada it is our May 2-4 weekend, even if it's coming on the 17/18th. Long weekend with fireworks happening.

Traditionally...well, in the ChrisChat household...this is a weekend of BBQ cleaning, family celebrating of hubby and mine's wedding anniversary (24 years this May 26th). Traditions are really just life habits, aren't they? (psst, how's that for a lead-in to today's musing...writing habits ;)

Yup, we're musing on habits...worst and best.

As an editor, I've become aware of how much most of us overuse certain words. Like the habit they are in our speech...that, just, about, like. Then there are the personal habits of how we start, but, I, character name. The funny thing is we don't see these when we're writing them out ourselves. Even editing, we can miss seeing pages of paragraphs starting with the character's name. Yup, I missed that during one working edit.

As a reviewer, I have found myself anticipating the next ____ in some stories I've read. It's all part of the flow

Personally, as a writer (trying to break up that starting habit of starting the paragraph with a/an ;) my worst habit is staring at a blank screen. Surprisingly, my best habit is staring at a blank screen...hey, I'm very good at it.

Onward to our Muser Family and let's see what they have to share...

My worst habit is that I can get so distracted by/involved with the research that I just about forget to sit down and actually write.

My best habit is that, once I really get into a book, I am glued to it, sometimes writing for many hours at a stretch (once, that was twelve hours almost straight -- bathroom breaks and cat feeding did take place; Pauline feeding did not.  It doesn't usually get that intense, but when I get an idea, I am dedicated to it.

There are good habits and bad habits in both behavioural and sartorial terms.

I'm inclined to the comfy but inelegant enabling me to fade into the background. I bought a really expensive but very elegant habit for my nephew's wedding in the spring. The dress raised my game and I look good in the photos. Nobody overlooked me or ignored me.
Therefore, in writing it pays to cultivate good habits, too. Think behind the surface of a character. Understand the villain has hopes and aspirations. Recognise beauty may be only a surface patina. Answer the questions the characters ask. Never resort to cliché.

You know, it’s funny. I used to think I didn’t have any hard and fast habits in my life. With three active kids and a spur-of-the-moment husband, my plans sometimes failed to happen at all or didn’t play out the way I’d hoped.  

     Since the kids are grown, it’s a different story, and I like having the habit of a routine. I’m a clock watcher. I spend time at the computer every morning, listening to music and focusing on the monitor over my first cup of coffee. I plan my day. I email my daughter. I make the bed (hubby can’t make it to suit me) He and I tell each other ‘be careful’ and ‘I love you’ every day.

     This is just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even started on bad habits. (Sarcasm tops the list.)

MARSHA R. WEST, author

Worst Writing Habit

I have special words that I love and overuse, overuse, and overuse! This habbit adds to your editing woes and makes for blah writing.  Word Examples:

      “Thing” in all its variations: everything, things, etc.

      “Slid” (as in He slid his around her shoulders.)

      “Actually” and its companion “usually.”

     “Well” (as in the opening word in a conversation.)

      “Pushed/Pulled’ (Hard to find other options for these two, but you need variety.)

      “It” (so non-specific, but of course, you can’t go overboard with leaving out “the word” either. Gets to repetitious if you never use “the word”.—Please note how I used “the word” to take the place of “it.” What I’d probably do is use “it” in the first instance and leave “the word” in the second. Ending a sentence with “it” is not cool. J)

I have a list of 75 or so words and phrases. The lists changes over time. As I improve, I naturally eliminate some, but others creep in. “Slid” had never been a problem until my third book. J

Best Writing Habit

My best writing habit is that I’m a good rewriter/editor. I found a James Michener’s quote: “I am not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” In no way am I comparing my writing to Michener’s. LOL  Realizing his words don’t land on the computer screen in a perfect fashion is very comforting. So I go after all those words mentioned in the answer to the first question. Hold them up so I can tear them out like weeds from the yard and look for strong, colorful words to take their place. And I keep on keeping on, until the writing is as good as I can get the piece at the time. At some point, I declare, “good enough” and move on to the next book to see what lessons it will teach me. 

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at


Susan Royal said...

Apparently one of my bad habits is reading so fast I miss things. Like the part about our WRITING habits. Good habits: a consistent writer, sets goals, learn and use new words and see my characters as people. Bad habits: overuse a new word or phrase I like, leave out words, edit too fast and get impatient when a story won't come together.

Marsha said...

Susan, that's so funny. As I read what we all said, I thought, humm, I messed up the direction. LOL Which is one of my personal bad habits--taking the blame or guilt of whatever. Gotta let that ride for sure. Love your good writing habits. I should try to emulate. :)

J.Q. Rose said...

Ha--the habit of overusing the same word? Me? Never, well until Karen McGrath pointed out I used just over and over in my first book, Sunshine Boulevard. She was kind and gracious when she suggested I cut them out of the ms. I just never realized I used just so often. Just wondering if I've improved that habit!!! LOL.