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Sunday, March 17

Sunday Writing Tip: Are They “Really” Trying?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, examine every instance of try and make sure it means what you intended


A character “trying to do something” can sometimes feel a little told, because we don’t actually show the action, we explain what the character “tried” to do. If the intent is to show the attempt and failure, it usually reads just fine. But if the character actually does the action they were “trying,” it can be misleading, or even confusing.

If she tries to stand, then dashes across the room, readers might be left wondering how—nothing shows her getting to her feet. She only “tried” to do it. But if she grabs the chair and pulls herself to her feet, then dashes across the room, readers can clearly see the action that got her there.

For more on the ambiguity of “try” in your novel, try this article:

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