Tag Archives: cleaning it up

(in which I am allowed a handful of occurrences)

 

IMG_5235(Serious word nerds, keep reading. The rest of you, go do something productive or take a nap.)

Final combing through of my novel, in hopes it will emerge between portable covers sooner than later.

Meanwhile, there’s a file on my computer called “overused words checklist.” It includes words I use too frequently, & passive or lazy phrases to comb for, such as “very” or “and then.” I consult this oracle when I’m nearing the end of the process. Search/replace/omit (or keep, if they seem to need to be there).

Selected statistics that impress at least me:

  • Just 1 occurrence of the word “tendril.” Because that word is at the top of my list—I used to use is excessively in a previous novel—and it’s apparently my thumbprint.
  • “Very”: Pared down from 30 to 6 “very”s, all of them falling within characters’ dialogue, sounding better left there.
  • “Thought”: pared down from 48 to 19. And zero “thought about”s. !!
  • “Felt”: down from 38 to 8. (And some signify the fabric.)
  • “Little”: Oy vey! From 64 down to 41. (In case you ever read this novel: I’m sorry. I did what I could do.)
  • “Seem” (and its variants): 54, down to 14! Some of which are parts of other words.
  • “Sigh”/ed: Bonus points for only having 8 occurrences to start with! Hell, I could leave them all in there. But why not pare down. Except I had to add 2 more. Still, 10 of 79,000 words is not that bad. (She sighed.)

 

Winnowing stage directions (trusting the reader)

IMG_9821Often, new writers use extraneous stage directions and phrases that aren’t needed to show characters action. (So do I.) The reason, I think, is similar to my last post: First, the writer needs to see it all happening, in detail. Once that vision is established, however, it’s great to trust the reader to and winnow what’s possibly bloating the sentences.  Here’s an example from my novel:

FIRST VERSION: (I had to figure out where the character was going, and sort of lay it all out, with too much stage business describing what’s happening.)

She stumbled through the fire pit and into the hotel, quietly as she could, and went straight toward the stairs, but was stopped by Mr. Suspenders’ voice from the direction of the kitchen, where there was a light. “Whoever you are, a little help!”

PARED DOWN: (Once I realized I could see it, I pared down.)

She stumbled into the hotel, quietly as possible, and went toward the stairs, but Mr. Suspenders called from the kitchen. “Whoever you are, a little help!”