Hard Lessons Learned
Just when I thought I was becoming a better writer, might even be at the point of finishing editing and sending off a manuscript to an agent, I was blown out of the water. It’s not a bad thing. It just brought home a very basic fact that I’ve made from time to time on this blog. When it comes to writing, I still have a lot to learn.
I’ve been subscribing to the Romance University blog for about a year now. There’s some great articles, some so-so articles and some downright, are you kidding me articles. Last week, there was a great article from Rayne Hall about tightening up your writing style.
It was a shortened (more like a summary) version of her book, The Word-Loss Diet. That article alone had me cringing as I thought back on my current work in progress. So I bought the book and started reading. Now, I’m still reading it, but by the time I got to chapter four, I was ready to cry.
The article has six major points, three of which show up in the first four chapters of the book.
- Cut the word, could.
- Cut the words, start/begins.
- Cut the word, look(s).
- Cut the word, turn(s).
- Cut most adverbs.
- Cut most dialog tags.
I won’t fully go into each one, you can read the article or buy the book. Number five, cut most adverbs, I’ve heard time and again. It wasn’t really that big of a shock. The first four, hit home.
The book also brought up the overuse of the word sigh. The author is quite funny about it, “He sighs, she sighs, everyone sighs. Enough with the sighing!”
So going back to my work in progress, I did a search to see how many times I’ve used those words. Thirty four pages of my current WIP showed the following:
- Could – 28
- Start/Begin – 12
- Look(s) – 104
- Turn(ing) – 66
- Adverbs – 100
- Sigh(s) – 15
Obviously, I have some work to do to clean up that mess. The adverbs one was the most frustrating. I’ve heard the advice for ages but one hundred of them still somehow crept into my writing. What the hell? Am I even thinking when I’m writing? Well, I am. But it’s the story, not necessarily the words that I’m paying attention to.
As disheartening as it was to see this, I remembered a quote from Ernest Hemmingway. “The first draft of anything is shit.”
So I’m going to happily keep pecking away at the keys and then edit all that crap out later when I’ve finished the first draft. I also need to go back to my finished manuscript that is nowhere near ready for an agent and re-edit it. However, you can bet your sweet fanny I’ll be paying more attention to those words as I continue to write.
I also plan on buying a few more of Rayne Hall’s books. They’re short, sweet and to the point. Sometimes that’s what us aspiring writer’s need to know. Just the facts. We can go looking for the detail later.
Until next time…happy learning and happy writing!