Dude, don’t nod. Four major writing mistakes that are easy to avoid

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dude, don't nod. Four major writing mistakes that are easy to avoid
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Here in the Land of Writing Advice, we try not to lay down too many edicts because edicts are prickly things, but we’re going to put out four quick bits of writing advice that make you look a little more cool.

Let’s get started.

Nodding in acknowledgement.

If you’re a writer and you write:

Carrie nodded in acknowledgement. “Yes,” she said. “I do want to someday ride a manatee.”

The reader/editor is going to think, “What the what?”

A lot of writers worry that the reader isn’t going to get it. They want to be helpful. But in that example up there, we have three ways the writer is telling us that Carrie is agreeing.

Carrie nodded.

In acknowledgement.

“Yes,” she said. “I do want …”

Trust your writing. Trust yourself, okay? And trust your reader.

HE THOUGHT TO HIMSELF

The same kind of thing is happening here.

Shaun thought to himself, “Self, I am a pretty sweet man.”

Unless your book is about telepathy or has telepathic characters (hopefully manatees), you’re always going to be thinking to yourself.

So just write:

Shaun thought, “I am a pretty sweet man.”

It’s versus its

Okay, whenever you have an apostrophe in the middle of a word it means one of two things:

There’s a letter missing and you’re smooshing two words together.

It’s showing possession.

It’s with the apostrophe means it is. It always means it is.

Its without the apostrophe means belonging to it.

So:

The werewolf ripped its tank top during the change and cried.

That one? No apostrophe in its.

The werewolf said it’s going down to J Crew to get a new tank.

That one? Apostrophe.

We’re versus were

Continuing on the apostrophe train, we’re and were.

We’re has an apostrophe that’s showing you that it really means we are. The apostrophe is standing in for the a in are. Oh, that sounds weird.

The were (w-e-r-e) is second person past tense singular, past tense plural, and past subjunctive of the verb “be”

So we wouldn’t say:

Hey. The werewolves we’re changing in J.Crew because they were raging out over the lack of pink tanks with tassels.

We’d say.

Hey. The werewolves were changing in J.Crew because they were raging out over the lack of pink tanks with tassels.

Similarly, we’d say:

We’re werewolves, man, and we demand tanks with tassels. Got it?

Not

Were werewolves, man, and we demand tanks with tassels. Got it?

Writing Tip of the Pod

Um. Everything we just said.

Dog Tip for Life

Live in your current paragraph.

Resources -Links we talk about!

https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2021/06/28/australia-Nude-Aussie-sunbathers-who-fled-deer-fined-after-rescue-from-woods/1071624916281/

https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2021/06/24/britain-RSPCA-king-cobra-plastic-toy-Workington-England/1231624552603/

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HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 263,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

WE HAVE EXTRA CONTENT ALL ABOUT LIVING HAPPY OVER HERE! It’s pretty awesome.

AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW!

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Mushy Dialogue Sucks

There. I said it.

Mushy dialogue sucks. It’s nothing space in your story and sometimes it’s nothing space in your life. You know what I’m talking about, right? You meet some cool human at a coffee house and talk to them and it goes like this:

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“How’s it shaking?”

“It’s shaking well, thank you.”

“Yeah. Weather is nice, right?”

“It’s quite sunny.”

“Cool.”

“Yes, it’s lovely.”

Random bad dialogue that I just made up

One of my writers in the Writing Barn class that I’m teaching for the next six months, directed me to a blog post about the Five Biggest Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them and one of those mistakes according to James Scott Bell is marshmallow dialogue.

Bell believes that dialogue is one of the best ways to make a story better or make it absolute trash. He advocates fast-paced dialogue full of tension. Blah dialogue he says is ‘puffy,’ and ‘overly sweet,’ and everyone sounds the same no matter who is speaking.

Bell kindly gives hints about how to make characters sound different from one another.

Those include:

  • Making documents written solely in one character’s voice.
  • Keep working on it until every character sounds different and you can distinguish them at a glance (I added that)
  • Make sure there is tension going on. What do people want? Why are they talking? Do they want the same thing?
  • Make your dialogue simpler. Get rid of extra words. You can cut and copy dialogue into another document and then hack away at it.

He uses the following example of compressed dialogue.

“Mary, are you angry with me?” John asked.

“You’re damn straight I’m mad at you,” Mary said.

“But why? You’ve got absolutely no reason to be!”

“Oh but I do, I do. And you can see it in my face, can’t you?”

The alternative:

“You angry with me?” John asked.

“Damn straight,” Mary said.

“You got no reason to be!”

Mary felt her hands curling into fists.

Bell’s example

I’m annoying and I send my apologies to Mr. Bell, but that example is wonderful at compressing dialogue, but those people? They still sound the same to me. In the first example, they both sound like middle class people who are having a hard time expressing their feelings. In the second example, they sound like people who are expressing their feelings in exactly the same way and are probably are still the same social/economic/education background.

Look at what happens if you keep one character’s original lines and one character’s new lines.

“Mary, are you angry with me?” John asked.
“Damn straight,” Mary said.
“But why? You’ve got absolutely no reason to be!”
Mary’s hands curled into fists.

Or….

“You angry with me?” John asked.

“You’re damn straight I’m mad at you,” Mary said.

“But why? You have absolutely no reason to be?”


Mary’s hands curled into fists.

Revision

I’d argue that’s even better. For more about how language and dialogue changes with the speakers, check out our Dogs are Smarter than People podcast from last year. And good luck with your dialogue!

Links that go with the podcast (the important words are here and here.




HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!


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No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?

Here is the link to the mobile app and our bonus podcast below.

WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

ART.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

Bar Harbor Painting Schooner
Bar Harbor Painting Schooner

TIME STOPPERS!

You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Time Stoppers Carrie Jones Middle grade fantasy

MOE BERG 

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

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