Robot Writing - What It Is & How to Avoid It


Many beginner writers fall into the habit of what I like to refer to as “robot writing.” It’s when you basically write your scenes like a grocery list. Ex:

Marcy stood and walked across the room. Then she picked up the candle stick to inspect it. She blinked when she noticed the spot of dried blood. Marcy dropped the candlestick and ran from the room.

I call it robot writing because when I'm reading it I tend to fall into a robotic pattern and start to sound like the robot from the old Lost In Space series. "Danger. Danger. Will Robinson." You may as well put numbers in front of each sentence:

First Marcy stood and walked across the room.
Second she picked up the candlestick to inspect it.
Third she blinked when she noticed the spot of dried blood.
Fourth she dropped the candlestick and ran from the room.

Don’t get me wrong, robot writing is absolutely acceptable in your first draft, no matter your writing experience. Your first priority in a first draft is to get the story out of your head on into your document. But robot writing better not make it past the manuscript’s revision stage. Smooth those transitions and heighten your reader’s experience by offering emotion, smells, and sounds. Ex:

Biting her lip, Marcy stood and crossed the room, her legs weak with anticipation. Her heart pounded as she reached for the candlestick. Had the weapon been here all along? The heft of the stick both surprised her and confirmed her suspicions. It was indeed weighty enough to deliver a blow to the head. Then, her worst fear was confirmed. There on the finial was a spot of dried blood. She could almost smell the copper scent in the air as if the murder had only just happened. A door closed somewhere nearby. The candlestick thudded to the floor as Marcy fled the room.

As you can see, the most recent revision offers a ton more suspense and makes us want to keep reading. I recently listened to an audiobook with a lot of robot writing and I would find myself planning dinner or a scene from my latest WIP, before realizing I missed what was happening in the story.

To avoid losing your reader’s attention, avoid robot writing.

Comments

  1. Interesting. I never thought about it, but it makes sense. Better watch my writing. I don't think I do that. Thanks for the reminder.

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