Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Seven Deadly (Writing) Sins

The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing

Sin is a word that may be out of fashion in much of society, but looking at the darker places inside ourselves can be beneficial if we are willing to do something about them. Lest you think this is a sermon, the concept of the Seven Deadly Sins can be applied to your writing, as well.

1. Sloth
Clean up sloppy writing. Eliminate unneeded modifiers and words. Cut the number of adverbs, words ending in ly, which are usually unnecessary. For instance, tighten the description to show a character's anger instead of writing it as he said, angrily.

2. Gluttony
Use the right word. Write tight. Don't fill up space with two words if one will do. Don't use $10 words because you can. Write at a level that anyone can enjoy without running to the dictionary. If they can't understand it, they won't read it.

3. Greed
Don't cut corners in your work. Wanting more is good, but it shouldn't be all consuming.

4. Envy
Sometimes the little green-eyed monster can awaken when you see the success of other writers and authors. Wish them well and work hard. Maybe your turn is next.

5. Lust
The eyes are the windows to the soul. What you take in can affect who you are and what you write. A good question might be, is this something I'd show my mother, pastor or want God to read?

6. Pride
You should be proud of accomplishments, but there's some truth in the Biblical adage that "pride comes before the fall." Many of those CEO's now spending time behind bars still feel the world owes them a living and just don't get it. A little pride is good; a lot is dangerous and can turn you into the person no one wants to be around.

7 Anger/Wrath
Leave the anger to your characters. Let them simmer and stew on the page. Save your health.

** Your Turn: Have a few sins that you feel writers should never commit? Share them or feel free to confess your own if you dare.


(c) 2008 C. Verstraete

* Christine Verstraete is the author of
Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery.


  1. When it comes to editing, a sin authors CAN commit would be Kill. Kill off the bloat in your work. Kill those convoluted sentences that it would take a map for the reader to follow. Kill off the five descriptive words when one well-chosen word would be better.

    Think of all the stuff you can kill in your writing to make it better, tighter, stronger.

  2. Christine,
    Excellent advice. The sins can apply to the process of writing as well as the results. It always amazes me how many people want to be writers but don't want to put forth the effort.

  3. Truly, I think they should call us re-writers because that part is as, if not more, important than the first creative, glorious draft. Yes, where we kill so much of what we've just brought to life. Sigh.


  4. Good post and sound advice. I spend more time on the rewrites and self-editing than it takes to write the original draft ms. And I agree with all these 7 sins.

  5. Great post!!! I'm all for writing tight--and I once wrote a piece on writing from spirit that was similar to writing only what you would be willing to proudly say you wrote!!! Thanks for this one :-)

  6. Christine, Great post and reminder to us working towards publication. One I might add is never take the editor/agents name who has rejected you in vain. Although this isn't about the written word, I think it's still an important one to remember.

  7. I'm sending members of several writing groups to this blog site. Everyone needs to learn The Seven Deadly (Writing) Sins. Good job!

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  9. I'd like to offer the sin of cowardice. Writers need to take risks and step beyond their own experiences. That was the advice I received years ago from an established writer. He read a manuscript of mine with a character who was just like me in too many ways--same life experiences, same occupation, same attitudes and beliefs--in essence, a ventriloquist's dummy. He said you should write in your discomfort zone. Too many writers are afraid to trust their imagination. They believe too literally that they have to write what they know. Ken Kesey said, "Don't write what you know. What you know is boring. Write what you don't know." It's when a writer gets out of his/her comfort zone and into the discomfort zone and takes risks with their characters and story, that the writing becomes exciting.

  10. I was on a panel and everyone down the line repeated the tired phrase: "Write what you know." When my turn came, I said "Know what you write." In other words, stretch a bit. Stories and novels that keep me interested are those that teach me something new. Even in a flash fiction story, I insert one fact that the reader can take with them.

  11. Thanks for that last bit about anger- I needed to hear that today. I was just about to burn a writing bridge and you stopped me in mis-step. Editors can be infuriating people but turning them against you can come back to bite you in the bum.


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