Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Does being a writer make you over-critical?

Did I mention Autocrit Wizard? I’ve decided I love this programme. It identifies overused words, repeated words or phrases, and many more problems in your manuscript, and I have learnt so much from it.

It catches errors I wouldn’t normally notice. I never realised, for example, how often I used ‘He/She thought for a moment’ or how many times my characters say ‘I think’ or ‘I’m not sure’. Now I’m learning how to rephrase in order to avoid these repeats. As a result, I think (hope!) my writing is tighter, and I’ll also be able to apply what I’ve learned in my future writing. I’ve already phased out a lot of “just, then, only, so” words, but now I have others to watch out for.

I worked out that it takes me at least 6+ hours to go through each chapter with Autocrit (and the ‘find’ facility on Word) because there are times when I really have to re-think what I want to say. That’s not including the initial tidying up of the chapter, or even the read-aloud part, both of which involve some re-writing. So yes, I work hard on my revising, editing, and polishing.

Now on to the main point of this blog. I’ve read several books recently as the current heatwave in the UK has not been conducive to sitting in front of a computer. Okay, it might not be hot by American standards, but it is a heatwave here if it’s more than 80 degrees for two consecutive days, and now we’ve had nearly a week of high temperatures - and no air-conditioning in our homes either, since we don’t normally need it! But back to the books I’ve read whilst enjoying the sunshine …

Two of them, by a couple of successful British romance writers (no names mentioned, but one has 6 published books, the other has dozens by M&B/HQN) had me shaking my head at frequently repeated phrases, over-use of ‘ly’ words, and even ‘he was sat’ or ‘she was stood’ which always makes me cringe! I won’t even go into contrived plots, cardboard cut-out characters with no depth or emotion, and ‘convenient’ or rushed endings. One even had a hero that I found thoroughly objectionable and also totally inconsistent. I wanted the heroine to tell him to get lost several times!

Having said that, those particular two I read are on sale at Asda-Walmart and other places, and are high in the Amazon ratings. I’ve also read the reviews for these two books - and wonder if the reviewers have read the same books as I read. For example, the one that I thought had cardboard characters was stated to have ‘excellent characterisation’ by one reviewer.

It occurs to me, therefore, that writing your own books can make you over-critical of others. What do you think?

P.S. I’m glad to say other books I’ve read recently have warranted less criticism from me, but those are not the ones that appear on the supermarket shelves for general consumption.


  1. I noticed the same thing, Paula. I have become more critical of books I read. I automatically pay attention to grammar and sentence sentence structure, but I also still swoon at a well turned phrase or description. I want a book that engages me so well, the auto crit part of my brain forgets to engage.

  2. Must admit that even when a book does engage me, a grammatical error can still jar and take me away from the story. It seems the more I edit my own books, the more errors I notice in others!

  3. I'm the same way. I notice a lot more of the writing than I used to. I'm currently reading a book by one of my favorite authors (although I'm getting a bit tired of her). I love her descriptions and ow notice them more than ever.

  4. I don't really have any favourite romance authors, but there are times when I think, 'Ooh, great phrase' etc - and wish I'd written it.

  5. I totally agree about the over-critical part. When I'm in writing mode, I usually avoid reading other romances and stick to action-adventure or cozy mysteries as my genre of choice. Otherwise I find myself in the 'She's not supposed to do that.' state of mind. Or the 'How in the world did this get published with HQ when I keep getting rejected?'.

    A good review on a bad book drives me crazy.

  6. So glad it's not just me who is over-critical, Debra. I agree completely with your final question about HQ! Another of my questions is 'How on earth did this get an RNA Award?' ;-)