Thursday, May 03, 2012

Words I'm Finding are Tags of bad writing (my own)

I am revising my novel again because my kids and one of my students started asking me if they could read it.

And I noticed I have some really good segments in there. And then there are some that are... not so good.

But I also noticed that I kindly tagged them for myself. The words "Then," "Suddenly," and "were" are all tags in my writing that tell me "this part could be rewritten to be stronger."

Generally, when I use "were," I'm finding there is a stronger verb that can fill in that space.

Generally, when I use "suddenly," it's a shortcut for building tension in the previous passage. (If I've built the tension up properly, I don't need to say "Suddenly"--it's clear from the writing).

Generally, when I say, "then," I'm outlining instead of writing. I'm finding that I write a lot of "She opened the door. Then she stepped through." I am telling you what I'm visualizing, but I'm giving you nothing to help you visualize it yourself. Technically, it's a description, but not a good one. As a reader, you don't have to be engaged in writing like that. In fact, it's almost impossible to be engaged in that. You can't get lost in that. It's just a summary of the action, not an invitation to live inside the action.  Isn't "She opened the door and stepped through" better? Or, even better, "She stepped through the door into a writhing, slimy mass. Worms. Ugh." See? No need for "then" in that sentence!

In fact, I spend a lot of time saying things that ought to go unsaid. Like that she opened the door before she stepped through. We assume the door opened--it doesn't need to be the focus of it's own sentence unless it is incredibly significant that she opened the door.

So this time around, I'm trying to economize my words. I'm trying to say what needs to be said for the reader to have the experience I hope they have without getting distracted from it and without using extra words. So often, the most efficient way to say something is really good writing. It's more fluid and less likely to draw attention away from the story and onto the words. The worst thing that can happen is if a reader is going along, reading my book, and suddenly they are noticing how it's written. If anything is drawing you out of the story, it needs to be rewritten.

So I'm using the "find" function in Open Office Text to catch those tags I so kindly left for myself and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

1 comment:

medieval.woman said...

Good tips--lots of things to think about when writing tight, descriptive fiction.