I had my books analyzed to see where I needed to improve my writing skills. The two main criticisms were ones I’m familiar with and won’t be changing. However, what surprised me was that my writing was graded as “very strong.” Essentially, I was told I had the skills, but I have two major flaws and if I don’t fix them, I won’t get any further as a writer.
But as I said, I’ve been told that before. What were my flaws: 1) Too Much Dialogue. 2) Passive voice used too often – especially in D&R. My creative writing teacher in high school tried to convince me to go into screenwriting because I love writing dialogue and dialogue is a strength for me. But I hate descriptive prose, which kind of rules out screenwriting. I have no interest in describing scenes in minute detail, especially not enough to build sets and costumes around.
Being told I was a strong writer was a surprise. How is it calculated? Variation in sentence lengths, variation in paragraph lengths, large vocabulary, ease of readability, and knowing when to use long flowing sentences v. short, punchy sentences. I was told I was very good at that, making sure my action sequences were mostly short, punchy, sentences, not long flowing ones.
When a book has repetitive sentence and paragraph lengths, the book reads like a monotoned exposition. Varying the sentence length greatly, makes it more enjoyable. Long sentences should be used for descriptions of stuff (nouns). Short quick sentences should describe major actions in a book (verbs). Also, I don’t use nearly as many adverbs as I thought I did. And my word repetition isn’t terribly high for any single word, if you don’t count Flawless, Demonic, Natural Born Exorcist, or Ritual in it. I have the word “so” in those 4 books as many times as all my other books combined.
At any rate, it was an interesting analysis and report. I’m going to work on my passive voice as well as my descriptive prose, but I will continue to have entire chapters of dialogue, because I love dialogue in books. It is incredibly revealing about a character’s personality. Even more than their thoughts a lot of the time. And sadly, that is part of the reason, my characters are so well developed… all that time to talk…. it really fleshes them out.
I admit, I could do a little better with descriptive prose and making the action and inaction of the book drive the plots, more than the characters (I’ve had two writers tell me my action novels are written a lot like a drama… strong characters drive the plot and things happen to the characters, not things happen in the plot that drive the characters).
So, I have a goal: less passive voice, more descriptive prose and to help with that, I have a free trial of one of those automated software programs that gives you that information. I don’t know whether I’ll analyze Oh my Wizard or Anonymous Dreams first…. but I’ll do one of them and try to remove some of the passive voice and add a bit more descriptive prose.