Five Reasons Why My Writing Sucks (Or Five Things I Need to Improve On)

Number One :  It’s not for everyone.  I’m a YA writer, and I know that not everyone likes YA Fiction.  I like to think that my novella, Piercing Through the Darkness, is for all types of readers.  In fact, hardly any Young Adults have read it (that I know of at least).  But, my current work in progress is YA.  It’s about a high school senior who is being terrorized by her parents’ murderer.  So, I know that it doesn’t always work for everyone.  (I’m not limited to YA though.  My short stories tend to be more adult-oriented. Just had to throw that in there. ;))

Number Two : I feel like I don’t add enough description of my settings, and especially characters, at times.  When I’m writing, I know what everything looks like, so I have a hard time remembering to let other people in on the secret.  Description is just as important as believable characters and a good plot.

Number Three : I’m bad about using filter words.  (This also relates to number two.)  Filter words are varieties of these phrases.

  • to see, to hear ,to think, to touch, to wonder, to realize, to watch, to look, to seem, to feel (or feel like), can, to decide, to sound (or sound like), to know

(Read, Are These Filter Words Weakening Your Fiction from Write It Sideways.  It’s definitely worthwhile!  That’s where I borrowed this list.)

As she says in her post, they weaken your fiction.  I have actually started filtering my filter words, so my writing is improving.  I have to be careful though.

Number Four :  My characters can get a bit chatty.  I love dialogue, but I have to watch out.  I have a difficult time making sure my characters don’t talk too much.  Although, it’s hard not to make your characters somewhat chatty when there’s a psychiatrist involved…

Finally… Number Five : I have a problem with overusing the word just.  Here’s an example taken from my current WIP:

Landon tries changing the subject to trivial things such as the win our high school football team pulled off last night and how he dreads writing the English paper.  We all try to keep the conversation going, but it just isn’t working out.

Our food comes, and we busy ourselves with eating.  Well, mostly I just pick at my food.  I eat a few bites because Christian stares at me until I give in.  I start to feel sick again, so I push my plate away.  He looks at me, but this time I don’t give in to him.  I just can’t force myself to eat another bite.

I keep thinking about what is going on in my life.  It has all just turned to a jumbled mess.  I have not only told the one secret that can get me killed, my brother hates me and Landon and Christian, who happen to be best friends, are hardly talking to each other.  I’m tearing our group apart.

Sometimes, I feel like the word just is important to the sentence, but I have to make sure I don’t use it all of the times.  The last thing I want to do is beat my readers over the head with repetition.

Believe it or not, I’m not just downing my fiction (look, I just used just…twice. ;)).  I want to make sure that I know what’s wrong with my WIP in order to make it better and more enjoyable by all (Well, the people who will read it at least.).   With my top five reasons my writing sucks, I can take away what is bad about it and make it good.  Hopefully.

Describing Scenery and Setting

While walking down the road the other day, I came across some scenery I thought would be perfect in my first novel.  It’s on the land my mom and dad own, and I have passed it at least a hundred times because it’s on the path I take while walking.

It’s a small opening underneath some trees that has eroded over the years.  It’s kind of hard to tell in this photo though.

Well, in my novel, my two main characters are running from the “monster” and having to hide from it.  I just had them hide behind a tree, but as soon as I saw this the other day, I had a “That’s perfect!” moment.  It has to be written in that scene because it would just make it perfect.  Well, near perfect anyway, and this has led me to thinking about scenery and setting.

What is scenery?  Merriam Webster defines it as :

1: the painted scenes or hangings and accessories used on a theater stage

2: a picturesque view or landscape

3: one’s usual surroundings

So, how do you make scenery work in your writing?

First, you need to know what you have in mind.  Let’s take this picture for instance.  I don’t want it exactly as is because that would mean they would be visible from a road, so I have to change that.  I do want to keep the opening on the underside of a small hill where the monster can’t see them right away.

So, now that we know what we want the scenery to look like, we have to describe it.

As a writer, we have to use our words like a painter uses his brush to describe the scenery we have in mind for our story.  We want to bring it to life, but it’s not always easy to do.

I start with jotting down short descriptions of the picture I have in mind for the scenery.  For example: The limbs hang freely in the small opening; Erosion from a dried up creek caused the opening.

Then, I take those small sentences (or even fragments) and paint them with words.

Now, we start crossing over into setting territory.  Setting as described by this website states:

Writers describe the world they know. Sights, sounds, colors, and textures are all vividly painted in words as an artist paints images on canvas. A writer imagines a story to be happening in a place that is rooted in his or her mind. The location of a story’s actions, along with the time in which it occurs, is the setting. Setting is created by language. How many or how few details we learn is up to the author. Many authors leave a lot of these details up to the reader’s imagination.

So, with setting, we not only have the scenery, but we have to add in more: time, sounds, and place.

For example, my novel is written in a small fictional town called, Brownsville, Tennessee.  The place where they’re being chased is at a newly remodeled house called, The Willow House, on a gravel road by some bridges.  It’s night time, so I would have to add in night time sounds like crickets chirping, owls hooting, dogs barking in the distance, water from the river, etc.  Not only do I have to add those sounds, I have to add in the gravel crunching underneath their feet or the dead leaves that make up the floor of the woods surrounding them breaking up beneath their feet as well.  It’s late.  They’re both tired.  One’s even injured.  I have to add in all of this.  It is what makes up this particular scene.

In a novel, you have many different scenes to work with, so there are many different settings and scenery.  It’s important to work through all of the details, but as the website said, it’s up to the author to decide how many or how few details the reader has to work with.

 How do you deal with scenery and setting in your stories?