Pitfalls and Pet Peeves

Pitfalls of Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Vonda N. McIntyrePitfalls and Pet Peeves

by Vonda N. McIntyre

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has just curated a storybundle, The Write Stuff, which includes my BVC writing chapbook, Pitfalls of Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy, plus Writing Horses — The Fine Art of Getting It Right by Judith Tarr and Business for Breakfast by Leah Cutter (both BVC colleagues).

The rest of the storybundle:

  • The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer
  • Break Writer’s Block Now! by Jerrold Mundis
  • Writing Into The Dark by Dean Wesley Smith
  • Making Tracks by J. Daniel Sawyer
  • Rejection, Romance, & Royalties by Laura Resnick
  • The Write Attitude by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Playing The Short Game by Douglas Smith
  • 30 Days in The Word Mines by Chuck Wendig

You can read about the Storybundle in general and The Write Stuff in particular at this BVC News item.

Pitfalls was a lot of fun to write. I got to fulminate at length — or, more accurately, at short — about redundancy, sloppy writing, lazy writig, inaccurate word choices, and all my favorite pet peeves.

Some of the chapters evolved from errors I’ve made myself, including some that, I blush to admit, ended up in print. Cacaphony is not the same word as cacophony, and disinterested is not the same word as uninterested. Look words up! Look words up sometimes, even if you think you know them.

Some chapters are cringe-worthy examples from fellow writers (I’ll never tell!) who believe that a long word similar to a shorter word is an intensified version of the shorter word. Epicenter. Penultimate.

Several chapters are signal-boosts of writing advice from the brilliant and wonderful Samuel R. Delany: subjunctive tension, redundancy, misuse of “seem” and “appear.”

The most important chapter, in my opinion, is McIntyre’s First Law:

Under the right circumstances,
anything I tell you could be wrong.



Pitfalls and Pet Peeves — 5 Comments

  1. A few minutes ago I came across a column in which the Hugo was referred to (apparently without irony) as “the penultimate science fiction award.”

  2. In some circumstances, the Hugo might be (become?) the penultimate science fiction award, though I don’t see it happening this year or next or the next…

    But yeah, words misunderstood and misused.

  3. Too true. But, I wish I thought the writer meant that some other award — Nebula, Locus, WFC, whatever — was the ultimate. Unfortunately, I don’t.