The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

I Write Sins Not Tragedies

I didn’t start this blog to give writing tips. What the hell do I know about writing? Apart from my top tip about how to find and replace instances of double full-stops, virtually nothing. All I know is that if I’m finding I’m difficult I’m probably doing something right, and I have enough understanding of technique to realise that it’s not a good idea to rely upon understanding of technique. Experience is only useful if you’re doing the same thing again; something which, in writing, you’re always doing your best to avoid.

But – just for the sake of balance – here are some what-not-to-dos. To be precise, these are my own worst, bad, writing habits. Which include, as demonstrated in the previous sentence, an over-use of commas and a tic which means I will always, always use two adjectives where one would do; I also have a tendency to add semi-colon clauses at the end of sentences when I’m not even sure what semi-colons are for. And, of course, I like to stick in redundant words and phrases like ‘of course’, ‘well’, ‘however’ and so on.

I have a real, borderline OCD, problem with word counts. If I’ve been asked to write 1000 words for a thing, I’ll write 1000 words. Exactly. Not 999, not 1001, and certainly not 998 or 1002. I think it’s an obsession borne out of my editing discipline; I’ll always over-write and then edit down to a precise target figure.

I also have a serious hang-up about line breaks and page breaks. I’ll rephrase sentences to avoid them. In scripts, this can be important – you want it to be the right number of pages – but I simply can’t bear to see one word hanging over at the end of a paragraph. It just looks untidy.

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