Can you conquer the ING Dynasty in your writing?
July 31, 2014
When I sat at the feet of my writing coach, the late, great Jory Sherman, we often discussed the ING Dynasty.
The ING Dynasty as Jory used the term did not refer to a kingdom in China. Rather, it was the practice common to many new writers, where they use ing words every chance they get.
Jory called that practice “weak writing.”
He especially loathed sentences that began with ING words.
I’m not sure why so many new writers fall victim to the Siren songs of ING. Perhaps it is because 11th and 12th grade high school English teachers suggest such sentence construction is elegant, and we as writers have trouble recovering from the suggestion.
Let’s take an example.
Looking out the window, he saw a stranger approaching on horseback. Grabbing his pistol from the nightstand, he got out of bed. Running across the floor, he swung open the door. Going outside on the porch, he raised his gun.
Okay. Compare it to this.
When he saw a strange man on a horse near the edge of his property, he grabbed his Colt revolver off the nightstand, threw himself out of bed, ran out on the porch and fired three shots.
The content of each paragraph is the same, but the mood, feel and pace are dramatically different.
Which brings us to another thing about ING.
A writer doesn’t need to cut all ING words. They have their place. The trick is use them when the time is right. Seldom is it the best technique to lead off a sentence with ING. Maybe a few times here and there in an entire book. But they come in handy if the writer hopes to slow down the pace of a passage, to create a dream-like feel to a description or mood.
The day her husband left for the war, Maryanne drove home alone through streets he and she had so often traveled. Near the house, she stopped, got out of the car and leaned on a fence post, her eyes scanning the rows of tall green corn stalks, their silky tops fluttering in a thoughtless breeze, their hidden harvest awaiting a man who had left them for darker fields.
Those ING words help create a somber moment when Maryanne is lost in thoughts of a man she may never see again.
Don’t let the ING Dynasty conquer your writing. Use ING to set a mood and slow down the pace, and shy away from using ING words to lead off a sentence.