When writing, it’s important to be decisive. Passive storytelling, passive events, passive motivations, passive characters, passive verbs, all lead to a story without risk or conviction, full of missed opportunities.
Get rid of the unnecessary qualifying words (quite, a bit, a little, some, somewhat, I guess) and non-specific words (someone, everything, huge, handsome, very, really). Such words detract from the authority and decisiveness of your writing.
Too many flashbacks rob a story of drive, give it a sense of aimlessness. So does a lack of focus. Thank heaven for rewrites! The grieving woman in my NaNoWriMo story keeps reflecting on the past, which makes sense, because for her there doesn’t seem to be much of a future. Still, it does seem aimless since she’s thinking instead of doing something. When I rewrite it, I’m going to take away the aimlessness by having the story revolve around a theme to give it focus.
The worst offense for indecisive writing is backing off from a major scene, skipping it entirely, or doing it in flashback. Many new writers don’t feel they are capable of writing dynamic action scenes, so they skim past it and hope readers won’t notice. Or they have a character other than the hero commit the final act, such a man showing up at the end to rescue the heroine in women-in-peril novels. This isn’t as common as it once was, which is good. If the woman is the hero, she needs to put herself on the line during the final scene and not expect someone else to do it for her.
In More Deaths Than One, it might seem as if I passed the buck — the solution to the mystery of Bob’s identity came in a letter rather than his doing the work himself — but the point of the scene was for him to interact with the waitress, not interact with the villain. I wanted to show her emotion on his behalf, show his reaction to her as together they learn the truth. It was the immediacy of their reaction that I needed. How a character feels, reacts, or emotes, is every bit as important as what a character does.
It’s important to trust yourself as a writer. Trust that you will be able to recognize the truth of your scene and what you want to accomplish (as I did with More Deaths Than One). Trust that when it comes time to rewrite and edit, you will know what you need to do to create a dynamic story, and that you will be able to do it.
Most important of all, don’t skirt around the story. Get right to the heart of the action. Be bold.