Details We Don’t Notice.
In January I submitted a “short” story to a writing contest at my school and got… nothing. This wouldn’t normally bother me terribly much except that I never got any feedback about it. It was just, “You failed. Too bad.”
So this past month, I submitted it to be critiqued on Critters and it was very interesting to find what kind of comments I got back.
I got some rather negative comments. Someone decided to point out that I could make the story, which is about 13,000 words, into perhaps a 7,000 word story. That’s fine. I admitted that my story I thought was too long and I wanted to cut some out. But he then went on to say that one way I could cut it down was by changing a sentence, gave me an example, and the example contained was. I avoid was. Like the plague.
He did, however, also give me the idea of making up my own form of intoxication, because then no one can complaining about me not being accurate.
Another complaint I got was the sweepers. Sweepers are a very difficult group of people to fully understand, since they are generally criminals who flee from society to avoid prison. In this world, prison is a very negative place to live, with many stigmas, so these are people, not completely dangerous people, who wish to maintain their liberties.
But sweeper code basically says that if someone comes, you take them now, ask questions later. Only the really dangerous criminals are turned over to the government when a sweeper ship is involved.
So a few complaints that I had consisted of mainly why did they take him on when he is obviously so green and rebellious? And also, a little bit more fleshing of the political situation with the sweepers. (Which now I’m wondering if I need that with Shad. With the whole story being from the sweepers POV, that might be very confusing for the readers.)
A few good ideas I got from it included things like making Kontyo stupidly smart. The idea is to make the reader not think that Kontyo is such a fool, keep him ahead of everyone else, and then have him fall flat on his face when he really isn’t ahead of everyone else. I like this idea. It sounds like fun. (It is totally not me, but hey, that’s the point of writing.)
So basically, I just need to get to the point of editing this story, which I haven’t. I got these reviews almost two weeks ago and nothing. I’m wondering I should write something small first.
The Proper Use of Very
As said by Mark Twain:
Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
If only banish words from your writing was that easy. The fact is that it takes a lot of a time and effort and careful writing to properly banish words.
Wait! Why would I want to ban words from my writing? Aren’t all words good?
See, some words are perfectly fine to use often. Said is actually one of these words. The word said is generally invisible to readers, especially once readers get involved in your story. If you don’t believe me, watch yourself next time you read. I skip over that word, using it merely to reestablish who is speaking.
However, there are some words that writers tend to use constantly in their writing and you really don’t want that. The word becomes overused and stale and just doesn’t hold the same umph that you want it to.
Well, that sounds easy. What’s the word?
Good question. There isn’t just one word that I can say that everyone overuses. Worse, it isn’t just one word usually. To make it even hardly, once you start controlling one word from your writing, another overly-used word will crop up and then you’ll have to delete that word and it will continue in very much a circular pattern.
So what I am to possible do?
1) Be aware of this when you edit your writing. If you realize that we tend to use words over and over again, you’ll be more likely to notice yourself doing this when you edit it.
2) Figure out how to replace it, or if you need the words in the first place. My current favorite words is just. He just needed to do this. He just didn’t like her. He just wished that the rain would stop. I don’t need it. But, remember that if you merely replacing the words with something else, say, I replace just with only, then only becomes my new banned word and I’m no better off.
3) Create a list somewhere of these banned words. This can be a mental list even, but for physical people, physical lists might be a good idea. And just because a word is banned for you doesn’t mean you can never use it. You do want to evaluate every single time you use it through to see if you really, really, really need to.
4) If you really want to banish a word, and you don’t see that word in your writing, I would advise doing a find and replace all. I did this once when I was told that I had too many wases/weres in my writing. I replaced all wases with 12345667890 and all weres with 0987654321. This made these words obvious to me, but for areas like dialog, that I don’t want to change, I can do a change all and replace them back.
5) You’ll have to be on you guard at all times. Words are sneaky and want to be used. Be on guard for another word slipping into your writing, because it probably will happen.
This sounds really hard. I don’t know if I want to do all that editing.
Well, in that case it’s your choice, but no one ever said that writing is easy. in fact, the general agreement is that writing is one of the most challenging things to understand. So happy writing.
Question of the Week due tomorrow night. No answers mean you get to only hear my opinion still.