I have them. You have then. In fact, everyone has them — and they're not the cooties. You're a writer and you're not going to like this, but you have bad writing habits. If you don't, you're only fooling yourself. I know I have some bad habits - at least regarding writing. Otherwise, I'm perfect, just ask my wife. LOL.
Let me preface with "I've learned to correct a multitude of my writing sins over the years — yet, there are still more."
In the beginning, back in the 1980s, I was known as Mr. Dash Ellipses to my editor. At least, that was "one" nickname she had for me. She was constantly dinging me for the my over usage of dashes (—) and those aggravating ellipsis (…) in my writing. My characters were constantly ending their conversations mid-sentence, or they were incessantly being cut off by another speaker. It was my feeble attempt to write "real" dialog. As I learned, "real" conversations in writing don't always mimic life. It is better to let your characters finish their sentences.
Now that I am an editor for several upcoming authors, I see other bad habits that I may have had. These are habits that I attempt to correct with my clients.
Let me tell you about Ms. Suddenly who constantly needed to express surprise with "Suddenly, this happened" or "Suddenly, that happened." In one chapter of her manuscript, approximately five pages, Ms. Suddenly used the term a total of thirty-six times. I will not reveal in any way how many occurrences of the term existed in the full work. Let me say, the word "suddenly" disappeared from the work in drastic numbers.
Of course, Mr. Mystery wrote fantasy but kept his readers in the dark from chapter to chapter as to who he was writing about. There were three main characters and each chapter was in one of the three's POV. Sometimes consecutive chapters could be the same character. Imagine reading three to five paragraphs THEN discover who the POV character is. It was a simple editorial fix, but it was a bad habit not only for this particular writer, but by some of the books I've read, it is a bad habit for many other authors, too. My rule-of-thumb is simple: Mention the POV character's name in the first sentence, or at least the first paragraph of each chapter.
One of my bad habits, again, brought to my attention by my editor, was an annoying tick I had graced my character with. I would have her constantly tapping her lower lip with her index finger while in deep thought. I thought it a great way to make this character believable and stand out in a reader's mind. It did, but because I repeated the action so often, it became nauseating to the reader. Two of my beta-readers commented, not to mention my editor at that time. I trimmed my story to eliminate many of the ticks and once I'd established the tick, only mentioned it to let the reader know she was thinking.
Another bad habit by several writers is that of gazing or nodding by their characters. Yes, even I fell into that trap. I had a group of six sitting around a fire. They were all gazing at it. One character made a comment, and yes, all of the characters nodded their heads. As one beta-reader commented — I felt I was in a toy store aisle where all the bobble-head dolls had been released from their boxes as you described each character's reaction while it nodded. I mentioned gazing. In regard to it, my characters were constantly gazing — they gazed in the distance, they gazed at the forest, they gazed at each other. The beta-reader comment was "I gaze, you gaze, he, she or it gazes. We all gag."
I corrected those passages by searching for "gaze," and "nod" in the manuscript with a strong editorial hand to eliminate the bobble-heading and hypnotic gazing.
Lest I forget, there was Mr. As-if who obviously used that particular phrase too often. (Note: Another nickname I also incurred.) Everything in the novel was constantly "As if..." which I informed him, as I had been informed: "Either it is or it isn't. If it is, then say it is, not as if." By removing the offending "as if" from his novel, the story actually became much stronger and better.
So how have I eliminated some of my bad writing habits? I have a list of those items which I feel are detrimental to my writing. The list is too long to include here but when I have finished my editing and think it is ready for others to read — that is when I open the list and look for the offending possibilities. Yes, I search for such things as:
And I also have a program which checks for the number of incidences a word appears. Overuse of a word can be just as daunting to a reader.
Yeah, vase got a little overused.
Do you have a bad habit? Care to share what it is?