Wotcha peeps:

Further to last week’s excerpt, I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who took the time to read it and give feedback, whether here, on the forums or by email; your feedback is much appreciated!

For anyone that is interested in improving their own writing style, here are some of the useful bits of information and style-hints that I’ve collated from all your answers. Hope you find them interesting and / or useful – and if you have any other tips to add, please do – you know where the comment box is.

 1) Take out as many uses of was/had etc as possible. Apparently a typical beginner’s error is to use them too much, ie “was waiting” instead of “waited” or “had eaten” instead of “ate”. Though there are small differences of meaning between the different uses of the verb, the point is that when you use “was waiting” the reader is reading a description of what the character is doing (thus adding a layer of distance between reader and action) whereas when you say “waited” the reader has to imagine the action happening, and because there is no layer of description getting in the way, it makes it all a lot more immediate and gripping.  (Show don’t tell, remember?) Same with other “layers” that aren’t necessary, like “seemed to” “became aware of” etc.

Example: He had waited in the shadows, hiding until he became aware that she was walking round the corner. He had snatched the hat she was wearing and was running away as she yelled “Stop” and lobbed a small donkey at him.

Should be: He waited in the shadows, hiding until she walked round the corner. He snatched the hat she wore and ran away as she yelled [etc]

2) “He said / she remarked / they commented / it mused” etc etc. These are used too often and slow down the text unnecessarily – either transfer what they thought into reported speech or leave out attributions where poss. If you know there are two people having a conversation it is fairly obvious who is speaking once you’re into it.


“Why did you throw a donkey at me?” he asked.

“Why did you nick my hat?” she countered.

“Because it’s a nice colour and it would suit me” he told her, amazed that she could not see this.

“You’re a nutter!” she muttered, and left, hat in hand.

Should be:

 “Why did you throw a donkey at me?” he asked.

“Why did you nick my hat?”

“Because it’s a nice colour and it would suit me.” Surely this was obvious?

“You’re a nutter!” Hat in hand, she left.

Useful websites:

Ray Rhamey – Flogging the Quill

April L Hamilton – Indie Author

I’m sure there’ll be others so I’ll try to add any more sites to my Links page as I find them.


As a newbie, it’s been really useful to have my bad habits pointed out, because it’s very difficult to see that sort of thing for yourself (obviously, or you’d have stopped it by now!). Also I’ve been sent in the direction of a variety of websites that have interesting or insightful points on them – always good to have a read and see what tips you can get from writers of really snappy prose.

I’ve been going through my story and have done a quick edit based on the feedback I received. Reading through it afterwards, I think the amount of difference made by a couple of small stylistic tips has been tremendous. I’m about to send it off to my second editor and proof-reader, and he seems to be quite excited at the altered first chapter (though he hasn’t seen the rewritten bits yet) so I figure I can’t have gone far wrong with it so far.

The other thing I wanted to say was that I’ve been really impressed by the constructiveness and the positivity of the comments I’ve had in all three arenas, and from feeling really fed-up and a bit lost in it all, your feedback has completely re-enthused me about my editing. Yes – you read that correctly, folks – I am actually really enjoying the process again! You should all be impressed by the power of your words and positivity, and if – WHEN – “On Dark Shores” finally does hit Kindle, you should all know that each of you has had a hand in getting it there…

My thanks to all!