I would never call myself a writing expert. For one thing, it sounds rude. More to the point, it’s the sort of activity one can always improve.
In fact, if I’ve learned anything since embarking on this career, it’s that each new manuscript teaches me so much about myself and my writing. Yes, I may be at the point where I can trust myself not to make obvious mistakes, but that doesn’t mean a seasoned writer can’t fall back into old patterns. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been the sort to break a habit and feel I’m cured, only to lapse back into it again. It’s sort of like nail biting. I can stop it here and there, but every so often, I find myself taking a nibble when no one’s watching.
In other words, it’s very easy to forget what we’ve learned.
Take my recent manuscript for Predator’s Trinity, Gemini Island Shifters 6. Our friend Monette Michaels recently shared her time and expertise and critiqued my finished story. And boy, am I glad she did! Like any good critique buddy, she pointed out my mistakes. I already knew many were there, but I was surprised to see how many old bad habits I’d fallen into. For instance, I made way too much use of the passive voice. This is easily fixed, thank goodness. A sharp pen and a sharper eye and off we go.
So why would I make so many mistakes that I thought I’d corrected? In this case, I was writing under a bit of duress due to my family situation. With my head in the clouds, I probably couldn’t identify my own bad habits. It was also very important to me that I get this story down and perhaps I rushed a bit. Rushing our writing is never wise but I found solace in writing over the past couple of months, and must not have been paying close enough attention to my technique. It was enough for me, just to get the story down on paper.
How do we correct these errors? The first step is to put the manuscript aside for a while. Let it breathe and take a breather as well. You’ll return fresher, more able to spot problems and inconsistencies. And make sure you have another trusted set of eyes. Monette spotted my problems and was able to communicate them in a clear, caring fashion. Tackle one issue at a time, so as not to get overwhelmed. Little by little, we all get there.
Most of all. Don’t sweat it too much. If you’re able to identify your problems, you can fix them.
Oh, and if you’re tempted to bite your nails like I am, sit on your hands.