Monday, August 25, 2008

The Hunt for It and That by M

Repetitive word use

Warning: Once you read this, you may well inherit my obsession for rooting these words out of my writing...

I'm talking about dinosaurs -- words no longer necessary to our language that hang around out of sheer stubbornness. We find these words used places where they aren't needed and have no meaning or impact on the sentence.

There are several words we should search for and simply delete before the book ever goes to final edits. Here's my hit list:

IT usually needs to be replaced. IT is like a fungus. IT takes the place of a word with meaning and simply consumes space. Try this, just to freak yourself out. In WORD, search for IT, whole word, and replace with IT, highlighted. After you crawl back up off the floor, spend some time cleaning up just one page. Maggie Osborne did this to me with a highlighter a few years back. Ohmygod. I nearly died.

OF -- when it doesn't mean anything or serve any purpose.

She ran out of the open door just as he stepped off of the porch.

Revision 1) She ran out the open door just as he stepped off the porch.
Revision 2) She ran out the door just as he stepped off the porch. (We KNOW the door's open. She can't transmute through doors.)

THAT. (This one is Kate Douglas' fault.) There are instances where that is used as a pronoun and totally necessary. -- Go get that. -- However many, many times that is just a total waste of space.

Here's a 2 for 1 special.

She thought that if she could just find her keys, she might make it on time.

Neither THAT nor IT lends anything to the sentence's meaning.

Revision 1) She thought if she could just find her keys, she might make the cross town drive on time.

Revision 2) If she could just find her keys, she might still make her court appearance on time.

(She thought didn't really add much either.)

Suddenly everything became clear. She saw the light. An Event Horizon took place. An epiphany.

Barf. Stop.

Don't tell me

He suddenly appeared on the other side of the room where she suddenly spotted him standing there in the mist that suddenly appeared.

That's not only narrative, it's just plain lazy. Give me real description. If suddenly is bad, make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

He slipped into the shadows, crossing the room unnoticed, to appear at her side. A cold mist crept in through the open window, wrapping layers of doubt around her. Who was this man? What was he doing here?

If suddenly is good, let me feel it. Err that. Err ... the emotions suddenly evokes.

Fog rolled in across the water, blanketing the night in quiet. He stepped out of the shadows, waiting for her to notice him. Everything about her -- the set of her shoulders, the slight bow to her neck, the heaviness of her step -- spoke of the strain these last weeks had placed on her. One step. Then another.

"Richard!" she shrieked, throwing herself into his arms. "You're home!"

"Happy Valentine's Day, my love."

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