By Connie S. Hall
I’ve had a difficult two weeks judging a non-fiction contest for a local writing group. I never realized what a complicated task this could be. It has been time consuming and challenging. At first, I wanted to be compassionate and not hurt anyone’s feelings, but at the same time, I felt I owed each person a good critique of their work. Now I will tell you about some of the problems I encountered along the way.
First, many did not follow the outlined rules. At least six entries left the word count off. Some did not number the pages in the upper right hand corner as indicated. Margins were not correct. I wonder if they follow directions when they submit their writing to publishers. If not, maybe this is why they receive rejection letters.
I could immediately tell that several of the writers had not run a spell check. Why would you forget to do this important task? The last thing I want is for someone to find a mistake in my writing.
Several entries had common annoyances in which the writer started some sentences in the same paragraph with an identical phrase. I’m sure most readers notice how frequently you use duplicate words in a story. At least, I do.
As I read I was amazed at the detail included. Most readers don’t care about all that happens. They only want to read about what is important to the story.
It is best to avoid using cliché and redundant expressions. If you use too many of them your reader may become distracted.
Early in my writing career, I learned there are some words that detract rather than add to your story. Some of these words called weak modifiers are very, just, even, actually, and really. It’s a good idea to use the search tool on your computer to help eliminate these words.
Sometimes individual words can distract the reader, but maybe you need to remove some of the phrases used. A good rule to follow is if the words you are using do not add something to the story, it is better to leave it out. Some of these that can cause frustration are:
1. In the End
2. Worst of all
3. At that very moment
4. Seems to be
5. In order
6. We all, at some point in our lives
7. With what I was trying to deal with
8. Was on a roll
Now I can breathe a sign of relief because the assignment is complete. I’m sure I didn’t do as good a job as someone else may have, but I did my best. I do hope the people whose entries I reviewed are still my friends.