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Live from the chopping-room floor

September 3, 2010

Good day of edits today. The deeper changes to the actual story are coming along well. However, I’m also noticing a lot of verbal “tics.” Certain words, phrases, even sentence structures turn up far too frequently for my liking. Good thing I’m having a lot of fun with it. I’m actually enjoying “murdering my darlings,” tightening my prose by removing extraneous words/detail. And believe me, there’s a lot. Without further ado…

The Chopping-Room Floor.

“Dreadful Deeps”

I didn’t realize how prevalent this one was. “Deep in his heart,” “Deep inside,” “Deep down.” If my characters go any deeper, they’ll get the bends. Cut!

“Bunch of crybabies”

Floods of tears in this novel. P’s a kid, so that’s understandable. R’s crying is important to her development. But the others? Grow a pair/have your author show distress another way. Cut!

“Then, the sentence started”

I feel like this sentence structure crops up a fair bit, even in my personal writing. As for starting a sentence with “then,” it can add some drama and tension, but like everything, it needs to be used in moderation. Cut!

“Just in case you missed it the first five times…”

There’s an event in A’s life to which I refer a few times. But for some reason, whenever it comes up, I explain it all over again. Note to self: readers are smart. They’ll get it. Cut!

“Not the time for rhyme”

I swear, I didn’t do this one on purpose. Rhyming sentences snuck in while my back was turned. Since this isn’t Dr. Seuss’s Apocalypse, they will be… Cut!

“Just so very many extra words, kind of”

These are a variety of weasel word. They may look small and harmless, but they turn your prose from lean and clean to bloated and lethargic. I have a weasel problem, so I’m sending in the… giant eagles, I guess. What eats weasels? Oh well, cut!

“I spy with my little eye…”

Perhaps this is linked to the crying thing, but I’ve found a ridiculous number if references to eyes, and looking/gazing/glancing at things. If you mention something, you can assume your POV character has seen it. Unless you’re an omniscient narrarator, and can tell us they didn’t. For the eyes, other body parts are pretty and reveal emotion. I just need to be more creative. Cut!

I’ll post more as I stumble upon them. I think treating editing this way keeps it fun. And it’s less devastating. After all, it’s perfectly ok to write words like these, but it’s not so good to print them.

Anyone else have any writing quirks? Any advice on ferreting them out?

Cheers,
Arvik

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