There are a few tricks to not appearing as an amateur writer, and it is the desire of every writer to sound like they have been writing for many years.
One of the most mistakes a young writer makes is using -ing words and as. Now don’t get me wrong. An occasional use of these is not a bad thing, and sometimes it is necessary. However, most of the time the ing words and as can be dropped or moved to elsewhere in the sentence. It can be placed in the middle or at the end of the sentence.
Pulling the books off the top shelf, Meg knocked the vase over.
Meg pulled the books off the top shelf and knocked over the vase.
As Cassie picked the bag of groceries up, the bottle of juice fell and broke.
Cassie picked up the bag of groceries. the bottle of juice fell out and broke.
Another way to avoid appearing like an amateur is to eliminate as many -ly words as possible, even those in dialogue. Where there is an adverb, there is a weak verb. Drop the adverb and replace the weak verb with a strong one.
Angrily she put the file on the table.
She slammed the file on the table.
There are exceptions to this rule. Though not a perfect solution, it does provide effect.
Eyes cold as steel, she lifted gun--slowly, deliberately.
Clichés. What can I say but no, no way, and forget it. If you use a cliché to describe a character, you run the risk of making him appear like a cartoon character or, at the least, unreal.
There are some other small items you need to consider. Commas, for instance. If you’ve ever listened to people around you, you will notice they don’t always talk in sentences. They often string their sentences together. Doing this in dialogue could make your character sound more real, though it doesn’t have to be just in dialogue. How do you string sentences together? With a comma instead of a period.
“Come on, I’m in a hurry, we need to leave now.”
Some small things which make a writer sound amateurish are: emphasis quotes, exclamation marks, and overuse of italics. Need I say more?
And my favorite the flowery, poetic figures of speech. Use this method of writing very sparingly or chance losing your reader (he’s probably dying of laughter).
Metaphors and any phrase that draws attention to itself rather than what is actually being said is not sophisticated at all. The more subtle approach can convey the idea and allow the reader to use his/her imagination, and your reader does like to do this.
Profanity is acceptable only if it is appropriate to your character. Otherwise leave it out.
Writing is an art, and it takes a lot of hard work to perfect it. However, it is not impossible to be a sophisticated writer.
Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders and Sarah’s Secret
Member of: Sisters In Crime
Writers on the Move