It never fails. The draft is finished, time to read it, fill in a few blanks, do a little editing, in hopes you have written an exciting, interesting, charming, slam-bang mystery or thriller. Then —
The same %$%&* word … or the word of the day.
It is amazing how one word that fits a sentence and conveys the perfect image can take up residence in your brain then appear in your text time after time. A breeze can blush, blow, whoosh, loft, so why is it always soughing. The only known cure is a Thesaurus and patiently finding just the right word to replace the word of the day.
Saying what the paragraph is about, then describing it. It is a habit of mine in early drafts (a bad one) to begin a paragraph with a sentence that tells me what comes next, especially at the end of a writing day. All too often that reminder sentence is still in the final draft.
As in: Cora stepped off the boardwalk and noticed the change in her hometown, followed by —
Men in homespun shirts, pants, vests, and floppy flat caps descended the boardwalk stairs two at a time, scurrying across the street mid-block. They stood in groups chattering away, leaving little room for women to pass. Admiring those women who were young and prettily dressed. *
What size is it? Big, small, large, medium … far, near. The park was large. Well, in truth it is a 1/2 mile by 1/4 mile wide, with a five-acre pond in the middle. It is so easy to drop big, small, short, tall in as you write, when you could create a picture for readers —
Kanady brushed Cora aside, looming over Mrs. Gibson, his intent to dwarf her clear this time, he asked, “An’, ma’am, what name do you claim fo’ yourself? You who would swindle a whol’ town at $10.00 a barrel.” *
Enough or too much description, especially clothes and the contents of rooms
In the late 1800s, women’s wear defined class, age, marital status, while men, as men do, wore the same darn thing every day. The variants being whether or not they had their coat on, their vest off, or didn’t bother with a shirt, opting to walk around with the top of their union shirt showing, vested or unvested.
Cora fanned herself with a folded sheet from the day’s newspaper, her bare feet resting on a chair in the kitchen. Her plain gray muslin smock and hair were thick with flour from baking the loaves of bread needed for the reception and the week. *
Clothes define character and set a scene, but when do they interfere with the read? If I start skimming a book, I assume I’ve gone overboard and begin trimming. But I worry that my tolerance is high having made a modest living designing dresses for a very short time. I guess that’s what beta readers are for.
Now and just …
When an author uses now as in now, he turned, it jars me out of the past-tense narrative, as though this particular action is happening right now and the next has occurred. But because it bothers me, I avoid doing it. As a word now is easy to overuse and can be a lazy habit in both narrative and dialogue. Not that now doesn’t have its place, as in:
He is now interested in flies, seeking to discover what local flies come and when on bodies left out in the weather.
“Just now, I was on my way to The Courier when I saw Cora run into the fray. What was I to do, let the horsemen and their horses trample her?”
The same for just and I’m as guilty as can be of overusing it. I work hard to get it out of my text. Like now, it has a place, just not all over the place
The collarless dress with no ruffles or lace had a slight bustle in the back, just clean straight Methodist Sunday-go-to-the-meeting-house lines. *
And that’s five
Another five things may crop up, but until they do, this ends my current gripes with my writing.
* All quotes are from, A Convergence of Enemies, the second book in my Wanee series, currently in search of an ending that makes the author happy.
Suggestion: If you are in the mood to dive into a Vietnam Era based family saga, try the Cooper Vietnam Era Quartet: Dead Legend, Head First, Pay Back, and Don’t Tell, available on Amazon. If you are a fan of wartime stories and sweeping family sagas, this wide-ranging epic delivers a heady mix of intrigue and history that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
2 thoughts on “Five More Things”
Good post! We all have those little words that pop up constantly in the draft and need to be banished in edits.
I too am guilty of overusing now and just. Also so. But sometimes those words are needed. Having just read the first of Cora’s adventures, I look forward to the next installment!
Comments are closed.