By Jean Daigneau and Gloria G. Adams
We started Two-4-One in the fall of 2016 and have been busy ever since doing critique edits for writers. Our service is unique in that we offer two separate critiques, one from each of us, plus a collaborative summation.
We see a number of issues regularly, particularly in picture and chapter book manuscripts. Here are a few things to watch out for or to add to your own stories to make your writing stronger.
~Jean and Gloria
1. Telling not Showing. This is probably the granddaddy of them all. When you tell your reader what is happening or what a character is feeling, you give reader information, rather than allowing him or her to experience it.
Use actions to show emotions. Instead of “Jeff was nervous,” say “Jeff squirmed in his seat, tapped his pencil on the desk, kept blinking his eyes and clearing his throat.”
Check out The Six Pens’ blog post on this subject by Gloria Reichert, March, 2019. http://songofsixpens.blogspot.com/2019/03/
2. Double Tags. Tags tell you who is speaking, so you don’t need to double up on them. If you show your character acting or reacting to something along with dialogue, you can reduce word count and make your writing stronger by omitting the tag altogether.
Double Tag example: Joey slid into the driver’s seat. “You coming or not?” he asked. We already know who is speaking (Joey) so “he asked” is not necessary. Here’s a good article on the many ways to use tags effectively: https://www.scribophile.com/academy/he-said-she-said-dialog-tags-and-using-them-effectively.
3. Not Enough Story. Editors or agents sometimes use this phrase when the story lacks the basic components to give the reader satisfaction. Your ideas might be good, but if you don’t have enough story, your writing isn’t strong enough to engage your reader to the end. Often increasing the obstacles your main character needs to overcome or adding tension will go a long way to resolving this issue.
Basic plots should begin with an incident that causes a change in the status quo, creating a problem for the main character, followed by steps he/she takes to resolve the problem. Tension should increase until the story reaches a climax or turning point, followed by a resolution and end. This could be very simple or incredibly complex but should still follow a basic pattern that creates a “story arc” with a satisfying ending.
4. No Character Growth. Your main character must show some change by the end of the story. If your character is exactly the same at the beginning of the story as he or she is at the end, your character lacks growth or development.
Write down your character’s traits, both physical and emotional, at the beginning, then decide what change you want to see at the end. How will he/she learn a lesson or change somehow (be stronger, braver, wiser, etc.?)
5. Info Dump. Info dump occurs when you give your readers everything you want them to know in your story instead of everything they need to know. Readers only need to read what they need to read. You, however, need to know everything about your story and then learn what to leave out.
Instead of telling your readers the entire back story in the first chapter, drip the information gradually into the story, using dialogue as well as descriptions to move the story along.
6. Rule of 3. Three is the smallest pattern a person’s brain can recognize, so it works well in a number of scenarios You can use the rule of 3 to show plot points, to introduce characters and/or their names, to add rhythm to your story (or title,) or to provide obstacles for your main character to overcome.
Examples: Itsy, Bitsy, Spider; Three Bears, Three Little Pigs, etc.
Do a quick review of your latest story and see how revising with these ideas in mind can
improve your writing.
You can learn all about us and our services at www.two4onekidcritiques.com.