Bad habits? What bad habits?

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Are you a good writer with some bad habits? We’re fortunate that we don’t have any bad writing habits — we’re good at all of them. That, of course, is the problem with habits, especially bad ones. We barely notice them. Unfortunately, readers do notice. How do we know? Because we’re readers as well as writers, and we sure notice. Here are two bad habits we try to weed out of our books.

1. Repeating the same action. Characters with quirks make for interesting reading. Characters whose quirk consists of a single reaction do not. For example, we recently read a book in which the main character’s “middle” clenched, tightened, or tensed every single time she encountered a problem. We gave up reading when the MC’s romantic interest also began experiencing a reactive “middle.” Our thought was that these characters needed to make sure their food supply was fresh because obviously they were suffering from salmonella poisoning.

We’re not poking fun at the author. We understand the allure of repetition because we are also serial repeaters. The bad writing habit we repeat is constantly having our characters look at each other. Do you know how many words you can find in the thesaurus to substitute for “look”? We don’t either, but we do know we’ve used them all. And they all mean “look.” Our book people look. And look again. And yet again. We never noticed until an editor pointed out how often we fall back on this trope. “Find something else for them to do,” she said. We did. And now, after the first draft is finished, we do a global search for “look.” We think our characters are happier when they’re doing, not looking. We know we are.

2. This thing, that thing, everything, something. We have a thing for “thing.” The sad thing about our thing? We can do better. Using “thing” instead of a specific word is lazy writing, because every “thing” has a name. Here again, global search is our friend, and crisp, interesting writing is the reward.

What bad writing habits do you struggle with? How do you weed them out of your writing? Let us know in the comments.


Helen Lorri Resized CroppedHL Carpenter

Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter writes sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

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HL Carpenter
HL Carpenter writes sweet, clean fiction suitable for your entire family. Visit for gift reads and the latest Carpenter Country news.

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