Bad Writing Habits with K A Servian & #Free Book!

We invited NZ author K A Servian to share with us some bad writing habits. Why don't you share yours in the comments?

And she has free gifts for all! 

After a twenty-plus-year career in the applied arts industry, including owning her own fashion and jewellery labels, Kathy decided to turn her creative skills to writing fiction.

Her first novel, Peak Hill, was a finalist in the Romance Writers of New Zealand Pacific Hearts Full Manuscript contest in 2016.

Kathy now squeezes full-time study for an advanced diploma in applied writing in around writing novels and short stories, teaching sewing and pattern making and being a wife and mother.

K A Servian on the web:

Website       Facebook     Twitter     Instagram    Author Page  


Sign up for K A Servian’s Newsletter and get a free copy of: Missing the Obvious.



Bad habits - we all have them

I’m wordy; I put my hand up and admit it. I love words, especially descriptive ones. When I write, I’m attempting to transfer the images in my head to the page and those images are detailed, rich and colourful. So when I did an exercise as part of the Advanced Diploma in Applied Writing I’m currently completing that required a non-fiction passage describing an event without using a single adjective or adverb, my blood ran cold. That’s impossible, isn’t it? I muttered.

With some trepidation, I began to describe a trip to the local market, searching each word I wasn’t sure of.  It turns out that a lot of words I thought were nouns or verbs, aren’t. There are the obvious adverbs like happily, but then there are sneaky adjectives like just which I have a habit of overusing. It was slow going and there was a fair amount of cursing, but eventually I managed it. Here is the passage:

Bunting is stretched between the trees and flutters in the breeze above clusters of marquees on the village green. My sandals sink into the grass and someone steps on my toe. We see friends who stop to chat about school and the weather.
As I wander past each stall, there are glimpses of colour and texture that entice me to step inside. I know if I cross the threshold, I'll feel obliged to buy. I don’t need any more soy candles or wind chimes.
Conversation floats on the air and scents mingle to make my mouth water: Indian, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and of course, Kiwi—mussel fritters. We make a beeline for Stumpy’s pizza stall. My son watches the man spread the dough with ease despite having one arm. As we walk away with our pizza, my son tells me that the man had one arm, in case I hadn't noticed.
Music plays, the clouds clear and sun beats on our heads. We find a patch of grass in the shade and squat to eat our pizza, burning our mouths on the cheese and wishing we'd had the foresight to buy a drink.
The chaos of the market overwhelms us, but we tackle the crowds each month because we love it.


It’s not Shakespeare and to my eyes, it’s a bit dry, but it proves a valuable point. It is possible to be descriptive without relying on adjectives and adverbs to ‘carry us’. I’m not saying for one moment that we should all slash every adverb and adjective out of our writing, but, it pays to be vigilant of slipping into bad habits and perhaps doing an exercise like this every so often is a great way to stay limber. 

K A Servian's latest book:

Grace is trying to come to terms with her mother's death and handle the unexpected arrival of her ex-boyfriend when a mystery document she finds in a box in the attic turns her life on its head and raises questions she is compelled to answer.

In her search for the truth, she stumbles into the middle of a missing person cold case in a small town where the inhabitants have kept a secret to protect one of their own for twenty-five years. Grace's investigation unearths long-held rivalries and opens old wounds, causing the past to collide with the present with terrifying results. 



Shame on Who? (Short Prequel to Throwing Light)


In 1979, fifteen-year-old Jane Smith announced to her parents that she was expecting a baby. Thirty-five years later, the repercussions of the decision made by her father on that day come home to roost in the romantic thriller 'Throwing Light.' 'Shame on who?' is a short prequel to the book and provides insight into the dramatic events that changed Jane's life.


Amazon Kindle


Enter this Goodreads Giveaway to win paperback copies of Throwing Light!



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Throwing Light by K.A. Servian

Throwing Light

by K.A. Servian

Giveaway ends March 30, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
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26 comments:

  1. Great reminder about word use, and I'm glad I wasn't the one having to write a passage like that :)

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    1. Thanks Merideth,. It was one of the trickiest exercises on the course, but very worthwhile.

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  2. I'm often at the opposite end - crit buddies need to remind me to add in those visuals and descriptions! :)

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    1. It's tricky getting the balance right. I'm always reading other writers' work and wishing I could write descriptions as well as them, but at the end of the day, we all have our own style. We can twiddle with elements of it through study to improve our skills and the use of a great editor, but eventually, we have to accept and embrace our own writing.

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  3. Bad habits are sneaky. Mine creep in and take up residence before I even know they've broken the lock. I deal with one, and it feels as if two take its place. One of mine is starting sentences with And. Can't tell you how many of those I edit out. Feels like 50 million.

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    1. Yes, those bad habits are sneaky. I quite like to start the occasional sentence with And - just cause theoretically it breaks the rules.

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  4. Love the cover to Missing the Obvious!

    Everyone has 'bad habits' One of mine is not enough world building. I rely on the reader to fill in too much.

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    1. Letting the reader fill in the gaps can be a good thing. Think of an amazing sketch where the artist renders an image using only a few lines...

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  5. Oh loquaciousness, thou art mine enemy. I've dealt with and deal with the same problem you're describing to a T. I often find myself word-vomitting on the page and having to correct myself afterwards.

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    1. I guess in the first draft when the ideas are coming thick and fast we tend to write in a way that comes naturally. It's better to have more than you need and be trimming, rather than not having enough.

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  6. Hi Kelly - I'm a long-winded

    But you've described your visit to the market wonderfully ... I hate doing exercises like that - one you've accomplished so well ... good luck with the rest of the course - sounds helpful and interesting ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Thank you, Hilary. I feel very lucky to have the time and resources to study.

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  7. That's a really interesting exercise. I'm not sure I could pull it off :-) Sounds like a fascinating and useful course.

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    1. It's an excellent course. The learning curve has been exponential.

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  8. Strong, specific verbs are a great way to avoid adverbs.

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    1. So true. Its often so much easier to pick these things up when doing a revision after letting the words sit for a few days, weeks or even months.

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  9. I have been seeing these books around recently and I think the covers are awesome. I can relate to being wordy. I love descriptions and cutting back on adjectives and adverbs isn't easy for me, but I continue to work at it. Wishing Kathy the best of luck!
    ~Jess

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    1. Hi Jess, it's good to know that my books are popping up around the place. Thank you for your support.

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    2. Thank you, Jess. I'm thrilled you like my covers.

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  10. I have to work on using strong verbs. Good things to think about here.

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    1. Thanks sherry, it's hard to break habits. I'll often read back over something I've just written and wonder why I don't notice my habits while I writing.

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  11. That's a good exercise. I'm sure we all use more adverbs and adjectives than we'd like to admit.

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  12. I'm going to try that exercise too. Best of luck with your book, Kathy.

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    1. Thank you, Maria and good luck with the exercise, it's a real eye-opener.

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  13. Great post, Kathy. I didn't realise how many bad habits I had until my editor pointed them out. Hopefully, I'll avoid a lot of them in future :)

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