Autocrit · Novel Writing

Game Changing Writing Advice: Sentence Starters

A while ago I wrote a post asking you lovely bloggers for advice on how to stop using He, She, Character Name as sentence starters. I am so overwhelmed by the level of guidance and support I received from that post. To check out all the incredibly helpful comments click here

As promised, I’ve collated the information and have put together a brief list of the advice I received. These tips are game changers.

Use Deep POV – Anna Kaling Author

One sure way to avoid using too many pronouns is to write from a deep point of view. Rather than acting as a distant narrator, write as if you are feeling and seeing through the eyes and body of your character. Here is the brilliant example of this used by Anna Kaling in my comments section –

Shallow POV:

Jane listened to Andrew drone on about his day and wondered when she’d stopped loving him. She watched clouds float across her coffee as she stirred it. She hoped she didn’t look as bored as she felt.

Deep POV:

Andrew droned on about his day. When had she stopped loving him? Clouds floated across her coffee as she stirred it. Hopefully, she didn’t look as bored as she felt.

Start with -ing words (but not too often) – John

Another way to avoid starting with your character name or pronoun is to use an -ing word to describe what they are doing. A lot of you gave this as a handy technique, but there seems to be some controversy over this too. Make sure you don’t start with a verb too often because it can annoy the reader.

Cause and Effect – Fab Writings

Here is a brilliantly simple trick. Start with a cause and write the effect it has on your character. Here is the example Fab Writings gives in the comment –

Effect + cause = She sprang from the sofa, upon seeing a cockroach.
Cause + effect = The moment she saw a cockroach, she sprang from the sofa.

Start with an adverb – Brian Bixby

I’m a firm believer that adverbs should be sprinkled throughout your novel with caution and as a last resort. However, when you do choose to use them, why not start with an adverb at the beginning of your sentence and add some variety to your sentence starters?

Do not worry about this in your first draft – Jonah Bergan

Although it is good to be conscious of your common writing pitfalls when writing your first draft, it’s not something you should get bogged down with. Don’t go back and edit during your first draft. Write, write, write and edit later!

Autocrit advice – Robert Batton

Autocrit, which I have reviewed here, is a great tool. They also broach this subject in an article shared with me, VIA Robert. Have a look, it’s helpful.

The root of the problem – Yennaedo Balloo

Hints and guidance are fantastic, but sometimes the most helpful advice is to be shown why you struggle with a particular aspect of writing. If you start with too many pronouns, it is likely that you have a bais towards focusing on your characters and not other aspects of a novel, such as setting, description and action. If you find you are often starting sentences with pronouns, have a look at your work and see if you are neglecting description and setting.

This is the beauty of blogging, collective wisdom is so valuable! I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

Autocrit

Autocrit – A review

I have recently started using a piece of software called Autocrit. This nifty program analyses your novel and highlights any areas of your manuscript which an editor would usually pick up as bad practice. Autocrit’s website states this –

AutoCrit is an online manuscript editing tool enabling fiction writers to quickly and effectively self-edit their work anytime, anywhere.

When you import your document into the browser-based application (yes that’s right – there’s nothing to download) you are able to analyse the text on the following features.

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  • Pacing and Momentum
  • Dialogue
  • Strong Writing
  • Word Choice
  • Repetition
  • Compare to Fiction
  • Readability

It is a very helpful for picking up bad writing habits, for example, it has shown me that I use a lot of “Passive Voice Indicators” which it will highlight for me so that I can rewrite the sentence if I choose to. It will also show you if you are repeating a particular phrase or word, which is invaluable when self-editing. You can analyse the whole manuscript or by individual chapter.

I cannot imagine that Autocrit will ever be able to replace a human editor, not by a long shot, but for anyone looking to polish their writing before showing it to an editor this could be a real eye opener. It is certainly helping me to hone my writing skills and identify my weaknesses.