I host a thread over on Wattpad.com called: ‘Teen Writers- Need Writing Help? The Teacher Is In’, where users, mostly teenagers, are invited to ask me any writing related question. I never pretend to know everything, and Lord knows I don’t, but I do the best I can to shell out some advice. Some of the users are brand-spankin’ new to writing, while others have been doing it forever. I thought it’d be a great idea to share some of the questions I’ve received, and expand on some of the “advice” I’ve given over on Wattpad.
Hopefully if you’re running into any problems with your writing, some of this will help. If you ever have a question that you’d like me to answer, feel free to email me at Cfunk3@camillefunk.com, or stop by the Wattpad thread.
Here’s some advice on using the word I:
My two cents?
Well, I’m assuming you’re writing in first person here, and that can sometimes be tricky. Starting too many sentences with I is a common trap to fall into, but let me start off with the good news. You’re probably worrying about it more than you need to be. I read this great piece by Maeve Maddox on dailywritingtips.com where she actually took a New York Time’s bestselling author’s work and did the math. The word I came up 60 times in the first 2,000 words. That’s ! One paragraph used it nine times! Think about it… this is a bestselling author.
Why doesn’t it matter? Because the word I is a throwaway word. It’s as common to readers as the word said, and most of us just gloss over it when we’re reading, hardly even noticing it’s there at all. As Maddox points out, if you listen to your own conversations throughout the day “I is probably the most frequent word that forms in your mind and comes from your mouth”.
That being said, there’s always too much of a good thing. If too many sentences consistently start with I, you could possibly have a problem on your hand. Take some time and go through your work. My general rule of thumb is to make sure I never use the word I in the beginning of more than three sentences in a row. Remember though, there are always exceptions to every rule.
Make sure you’re using a variety of sentences, both in structure and length. If all of you’re sentences start with the same subject, I, then it’s imperative that you mix things up a bit. A simple trick is to go back through your work and reword some of your sentences.
Sentence One: I looked up at him.
Sentence One Reworded: My eyes wandered up to his.
Sentence Two: I was sitting on my bed reading a book.
Sentence Two Reworded: The book rested in my lap as I sat in bed.
*Usually you’ll find that when you rework some of your sentences it’ll allow you the opportunity to add some more descriptive details, which is a good thing.
Another thing you can do is get rid of some of your dialogue tags.
Sentence One: “He came over to the house yesterday,” I say, and she stares back at me with contempt.
Sentence One Reworked: “He came over to the house yesterday.”
She stares back at me with contempt, her shoulders tightening…
Another bit of advice is to scan your work for anything that could be consider filter text. Filter text is when you write in a character between the moment you want to be focused on and the reader viewing your book. Janet Burroway first coined the term in her book On Writing. Here’s a basic example of filter text in action:
Sentence One: I saw Charlie run across the field.
Removing the filter text: Charlie ran across the field.
Getting rid of some of that filter text might help rid you of some of those pesky I’s.
I hope all of this helps and remember: