Been-sprouts

Been-sprouts

I’ve recently read a story that was littered with the word been.

While it is a useful verb, it can be tiresome to read it over and over to the point, it becomes aggravating.

The word, been, sprouts up in my past-tense writing a lot. After it annoyed me in someone else’s writing, I went to look again. I had 106 incidences of it in a 110k manuscript. Not bad, but not good. I looked back to see what it was from my first draft, and I had 214 incidences of BEEN.

That means it’s an overused word or crutch-word. Something I lean on too much, and I consider that to be lazy writing. I can do better.

Here are some examples from my writing of where I plunked the word been in and how I removed it. The final sentence used is shown in blue.

I’ve never been on a dock in my life.
I’ve never stepped foot on a dock in my life.

You’ve been betrayed.
You were betrayed.
They betrayed you.

It had been the first time I was allowed out past dark.
It was the first time I was allowed out past dark.
(Now I have two ‘was’ in the sentence.)
I was allowed out past dark for the first time.
(Sometimes a complete rewrite of the sentence is the solution.)

He had been his own lawyer.
He was his own lawyer.
He’d acted as his own lawyer. 

I’d been so upset. I sputtered my answer like an idiot.
I was so upset. I sputtered my answer like an idiot.
Upset, I sputtered my answer like an idiot.

“You could have been smarter about that.”
(Sometimes I’ll leave it in dialogue if it works for the character.)
“I’ve been driving for hours!”

While I do my best not to overuse BEEN, I don’t eliminate it completely. I’m happy with less than 50 incidences of the word in a 110k word document. Most had sprouted up in dialogue, the others felt necessary—to keep the tone of the situation/sentence intact.

 

 

 

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Query Quandary

Query Quandary.png

Query Quandary

I think I’m ready to query. Now what?

Okay here is the checklist I use of what needs to be done before a query is attempted. (This list is a suggestion not a hard list of rules to follow.)

  1. Write a book within proper word range for genre and industry standard formatting
  2. Rest said book for minimum 3 weeks to freshen up your brain
  3. Edit, revise, rewrite and repeat with rests between
  4. Revise again
  5. Find reliable and interested beta readers (readers not critique partners)
  6. Revise with notes from beta readers
  7. Find one or two critique partners to go through with a critical eye.
    1. Make sure you make clear what you want them to look for
  8. Revise again with notes from critique partner/s
  9. Final grammar and format check
  10. Write a kick-ass query letter using industry standard formats.
  11. Write a boring, but perfect synopsis(yes this is the entire plot as it happens)
  12. Have your query letter and synopsis critiqued (You can get a professional editor for a query package critique as well. I did and it was worth every dollar)
  13. Research agents who represent your genre. Do not query agents who do not. It is a waste of time and often a no from one agent is a no from all within that agency.
  14. Follow all and EVERY rule by the agency and or agent you are querying. They are all different.
  15. Research the agent to personalize the query letter. Never send a query letter without at least addressing the agent you are querying.

Whew. Now once all that is done, it’s time to send out a query.

This is one of the hardest things to do. Sending a query to an agent is nervewracking. Will they request pages? Will they send a rejection? Or nothing at all?

Waiting for a response is hard. Rejections are harder. However, a rejection doesn’t mean you should give up. keep going and keep querying.

I did have a string of form rejections—a standardized generic email saying no thank you. As mentioned in my previous post, I pulled the manuscript and reevaluated.

Getting a block of rejections might be a sign that something is wrong with the manuscript. It could also be the query letter. Or it might just be that the agents are not interested. Don’t despair, seek alternate opinions or have a query package critique done by someone in the business. It is rare to get query feedback from agents. if you get some, it’s golden and don’t ignore it. If you don’t that’s okay too. Move on.

  • Never reply rudely to agents who send you a rejection(yes, people do this)
  • Always keep track of who you’ve queried either by spreadsheet or Query Tracker
  • Only send a nudge or reminder to the agent if their response time has passed and they don’t have a disclaimer stating “No response is a no.”

Agents are busy people and get hundreds and thousands of queries. I try to keep in mind they are probably reading your query on their phone while in line for coffee or at lunch.

Advice: The query process can be stressful, seek out friends and fellow authors in the query trenches for support and encouragement. Block. mute and ignore anyone who is negative, tells you to give up and go a different route or tell you that you’re never going to get there. The people trying to bring you down are only right if you let them be right.

 

“Write what you love, and others will love what you write.”
-SL.Mumby

What’s The Query Hurry?
What's The Query Hurry_

What’s The Query Hurry?

What's The Query Hurry_.pngWhat’s The Query Hurry?

I’m getting close to jumping head first into the query trenches again. I had pulled Prophecy Ink when I got a bunch of form rejections. That was a sign that something wasn’t right.

But what? Was it the query letter? The Synopsis? Or the sample pages? Yes. Yes to all three.

I was in a hurry to query. Excited to get my baby out there. I had done everything I could think of to get it ready.

Except that I hadn’t.

I did revise, rewrite, and edit the heck out of it. I ran it through grammar programs and editing programs, and it was as polished as I could get it.

I had to swallow my excitement, disappointment, and pride and seek out honest opinions. I paid for a professional query package critique.

IT WAS AWESOME! I asked for brute honesty, not to hold back and it came back with (and I’m paraphrasing) “Nothing happens in the first chapter, the MC (the main character) does nothing and wanders about aimlessly. Make her have a purpose.” That comment and a whole lot of editing notes and I was floored. The query letter needed some adjustments and the synopsis some alterations, but they were in decent shape.

I had merged chapter one and two(after some feedback), and she was right. The merger caused the MC to lose purpose, and she wandered about for no reason. Damn.

Okay. Here’s the thing. I was ready for a hard truth. I got it, and I was thrilled! Now I know what’s wrong. I research how to fix what’s wrong, and I rewrite again. Tossing the chapter out and trying four different approaches until one screamed: “I’m perfect!”

So. I did some more research and decided I needed some random opinions. I reached out to my twitter tribe (people who I know are bound to be brutally honest and helpful), and I asked for help critiquing or beta reading my new chapter. Boom! So many wonderful Tweeps offered help. I didn’t agree to just anyone if I’d never interacted before, I said no thanks. It’s okay to do that, BTW. I got the feedback from them, and there was a unanimous response of positivity. Small issues easily addressed.

So now what?

I took my query letter to a workshop for querying, and I paid again to have my new chapter(10 pages) my revised query letter and synopsis re-critiqued. And the response was favorable. “Much better.”

Yes!

But I didn’t jump back in. I had a few lovely people offer to critique the entire book. I was getting feedback on every chapter. Now some critique partners petered out and stopped sending feedback, this happens for various reasons. Busy schedules, lack of interest in the story, too much obligation, forgot, or even jealousy. Whatever the case, I didn’t sweat it, and I never harassed for feedback. It was kind of them to offer any at all, so I gladly took what I could get.

With the new feedback, I toned up my book and ironed out the wrinkles.

I’m on the last final revision, and then I’ll query again.

It’s taken months to get it back into shape. There is no hurry to query. I learned that rushing only gets rejections and I wouldn’t have learned how to not only recognize a problem, but I’d have missed how to fix it.

I’ll talk about what I’m doing to prepare for the actual queries next time.

My advice about hurrying to query: Don’t. Slow down, take your time. It’s a lengthy, extraneous process, and rushing will only end in disappointment and regret.

 

“Write what you love, and others will love what you write.”
-SL.Mumby

June Daily 2019https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/06/26/your-daily-word-prompt-extraneous-june-26-2019/

Giving And Taking Trust

trust.pngGiving And Taking Trust

Trust can be tricky, and as a writer, I find my self relying on my instinct more and more. Instinct and advice. I’ve had some advice given to me lately and some that I’ve learned on my own regarding trust.

It can be a challenge knowing who to trust, whose advice to trust and when to trust others with your writing. Because sadly, there are people out there that will steal and or destroy confidences.

Always trust your gut and test the waters.

When it comes to finding a Critique Partner or finding a Beta Reader, you need to trust the person you hand your story over to. That said, don’t just hand it over to just anyone. Talk with them a bit first, start off with a short story, poem, query letter or something simple. I never hand my story or synopsis over to anyone I don’t trust. It’s not perfect but knowing will reduce the chance of someone posting your work online without permission.

The same thing goes for services like editing and paid critiques. If the person doesn’t have samples(and even if they do), you can ask for a sample of how they would edit your work by having the first page or two done before agreeing to work with them. This is key, there is nothing worse than paying for a service, technically getting what you paid for only to find out it’s not how you wanted the editing done.

What about advice? I dole out advice and my opinion all the time, I even get paid to do it. Does that make me a professional? Not really. Does it make me right all the time? Ha, no of course not. Nobody can be right all the time. All my advice and information I share is what I’ve learned along the way. Sure it changes and shifts, and I even find better advice, but I never claim to be the be-all-and-end-all of writing wisdom.

Writing advice, (Including publishing, editing, and revising) is all subjective. What works for some may not work for others. That said, never ignore advice, rules, tips, tricks, hints, or anything that others offer. Listen to it and use your instinct to determine if it works for you or not. Taking a poll online to credit or discredit advice given may help, but I see more often than not, it will bring out three types of people/answers.

• Yes! Brilliant advice. Do this, you’re a fool to do otherwise.

• No way! Do the exact opposite, you’re a fool to do otherwise.

• Do what works best for you. (probably suggest to research or read articles)

People are strongly opinionated(No matter the facts) and the majority vote might not even be right. Know your audience, who is giving the advice, find a source from reputable websites to find more information and most of all, trust your instinct.

When in doubt, seek the advice of an industry-specific individual. Peruse blogs of people with credentials and experience. I spend a lot of time researching topics and information for my story, and I wouldn’t cheat myself by taking fly-by-night advice without further researching on my own before(if ever) asking strangers on Facebook or Twitter.

I always do my best to present information with an unbiased approach, after researching and often after finding out the hard way. I’ll never lead anyone astray on purpose for some hidden jealousy-based agenda. Ask me a question, and I’ll answer to the best of my abilities, if I don’t know, I’ll probably research and offer up some articles. Why? Because that’s what I’d want. I want people who ask me questions to feel they can trust me to be as honest as I can.

 

“Write what you love, and others will love what you write.”
-SL.Mumby

June Daily 2019https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/06/11/your-daily-word-prompt-trust-june-11-2019/

That Is Disgusting – Throwback Thursday Style #TBT

Good morning, it’s Thursday, and that means I’m going to post a throwback from my earlier posts. Essentially a re-post of an old archived post with new notes and observations. 

tbt 3

Anything added(except grammar and spelling corrections) are marked in green within the original Post’s text. 

The next post I’m going to revisit is That Is Disgusting . Originally posted on Aug 26, 2016 8:04 AM. The reason I’m revisiting is that I love how gross it is and it reminds me that people can be disgusting. Also, this is a good opportunity to show how I would now revise this story to remove the overly abundant filter words etc.

 That is disgusting

That Is Disgusting

People can be gross, I mean really gross. They do things that make me cringe. (People can still be super gross. That hasn’t changed)

When a character does something disgusting and it’s shown and not told, I will be disgusted too. And that is the entire point of reading a book. I want to be in the story. I want to feel it.

I will highlight filter words adverbs and words ending in ING.

For example:

Billy sat in the back corner of the coffee shop. In one hand, he held his book. With the other, he carefully dislodged a decent clump of moist mucus from his nose. After examining his generous prize, he rolled it between his thumb and forefinger as he continued to read. Without a thought, he flicked the carefully constructed ball. He happened to see it plunk into the cup of coffee on the table next to his.

He glanced around quickly, nobody was looking. Nobody Witnessed the once in a lifetime accidental shot. Feigning interest in his book, the devil in his head urged him to silence. He watched the snotty woman in a pale green sweater sip her coffee-surprise. Had she not been so incredibly rude to him earlier he might have spoken up. Then again, he might not have.

When the woman finished her present, Billy got up to leave, pausing at her table.

“Good coffee?”

She looked up from her tablet, her face morphed into a sneer and she tutted. “It’s a latte, and I’m still not interested in someone,” she looked him up and down, “like you.” She dismissed him completely giving her tablet her attention.

Billy walked away, a slow, satisfied smile creeping to his lips.

I loved writing this because Billy the bad-guy is as much a victim as the woman who is horrible in her own way.

Today, I would revise the sentences to remove the adverbs etc.

After examining his generous prize,
After he examined his generous prize,

Without a thought, he flicked the carefully constructed ball.

I might or might not change the second example with ‘carefully’ that one’s not too bad.

He happened to see it plunk into the cup of coffee on the table next to his.
The ball plunked into the cup of coffee on the table next to his.

This one was easy, I get wordy and the first four words were unnecessary. 

This entire next sentence would now be removed. It is unnecessary since I say the same thing worded differently in the next sentence. 

He glanced around quickly, nobody was looking.
He glanced around quickly, nobody was looking.

Feigning interest in his book,
Billy feigned interest in his book,

Sometimes a rewrite of a sentence is needed. 

Had she not been so incredibly rude to him earlier he might have spoken up.
Had she had chosen to be polite to him earlier he might have spoken up.

When the woman finished her present, Billy got up to leave, pausing at her table.
Once she finished her gooey gift, Billy stood to leave and paused at her table.

When I revise with the ING, adverbs, filter words and crutch words highlighted, I often find ways to improve a sentence beyond fixing just the immediate problem words.

She dismissed him completely giving her tablet her attention.
She dismissed him and gave her tablet her attention.

Sometimes removing words that are unnecessary such as “Completely” will strengthen a sentence. Now if I were to “Show” a bit more, I would write it like this:

She dismissed him with a flick of her hand then gave her tablet her attention.

The last example has “walking” in it. A double whammy. Walk and ING. I can do better.

Billy walked away, a slow satisfied smile creeping to his lips.
Billy sauntered away, as a slow, satisfied smile crept to his lips.

While a thesaurus is good to replace some “Walk” out, not all of them need to go and it is important to be careful what word you replace it with. Sashay or traipse would not work here. I don’t replace all incidences of Walk, walked or walking but I do check to see if there is a better alternative.

Billy has a habit. He likes to pick his nose. It’s called rhinotillexis. If he eats it, it’s called Mucophagy. Does the reader need to know the specific detail of what the act is called? Maybe. If it’s relevant to the story. Otherwise, leave it as a quirk or bad habit.

Cringe-worthy things happen all the time. Like when someone hands you money that was carefully tucked away in her abundant sweaty cleavage. What bothers you might not bother someone else.

Here is the newly revised story.

Billy sat in the back corner of the coffee shop. In one hand, he held his book. With the other, he carefully dislodged a decent clump of moist mucus from his nose. After he examined his generous prize, he rolled it between his thumb and forefinger as he continued to read. Without a thought, he flicked the carefully constructed ball. The ball plunked into the cup of coffee on the table next to his.

Nobody Witnessed the once in a lifetime accidental shot. Billy feigned interest in his book, the devil in his head urged him to silence. He watched the snotty woman in a pale green sweater sip her coffee-surprise. Had she had chosen to be polite to him earlier he might have spoken up. Then again, he might not have.

Once she finished her gooey gift, Billy stood to leave and paused at her table.

“Good coffee?”

She looked up from her tablet, her face morphed into a sneer and she tutted. “It’s a latte, and I’m still not interested in someone,” she looked him up and down, “like you.” She dismissed him with a flick of her hand then gave her tablet her attention.

Billy sauntered away, as a slow, satisfied smile crept to his lips.

My advice about grossing out your readers.
If it gives you the heebie-jeebies or turns your stomach, it’s safe to use. My example was a very long way to say, – He picked his nose, flicked it into the shrew’s drink and watched as she drank it. – Blech.

-Sheryl

Don’t forget to check out, share and follow the new daily prompt I host. A new word every day!
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Today’s word is Abundant. https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/your-daily-word-prompt-abundant-October-4-2018/

 

Sensible Sensation – Throwback Thursday Style #TBT

Good morning, it’s Thursday, and that means I’m going to post a throwback from my earlier posts. Essentially a re-post of an old archived post with new notes and observations. 

tbt 3

Anything added(except grammar and spelling corrections) are marked in green within the original Post’s text. 

The next post I’m going to revisit is Sensible Sensation . Originally posted on Sep 17, 2016 3:06 PM. The reason I’m revisiting is that I’ve had to go back and add the five senses to my writing again when I revise. I wanted to remind myself to put it in in the first place.

 together

Sensible Sensation

Immersing the reader in the story is something I still strive to achieve. When writing it’s important to use all five senses. Smell, sight, taste, hear and touch. Now it’s not imperative every scenario have all five, but it can help plump up a drab sentence.

For fun, I’m going to highlight my crutch words and filters words in the examples using orange.

For example

Joe picked up the book from the desk. It was heavy and bound in black leather, it crackled when he opened it.

Yawn. I need to make this book more important, to focus on it and make Joe experience the book. To do this, I use a technique explained in The FAB pencil to describe the book better. This is not going to decrease word count by any means but is a great way to add words if that’s the goal. (While it is a yawn, the only reason I embellished is that the book is important. If the object has no value in the story, the above description is adequate.)

Now for fun, I’m going to add all five senses to this interaction and bring Joe and the book together like lovers on a moonlit night, instead of strangers on an awkward blind date. (This is a good exercise to do, one that I need to do more often.)

Hear

Joe picked up the heavy black book from the desk. The satisfying crackle of the leather floated to his ears as he opened the cover.

Touch

Joe picked up the heavy black book from the desk and ran his fingers over the hard, smooth surface. The satisfying crackle of the leather floated to his ears as he opened the cover.

Smell

Joe picked up the heavy leather-bound book from the desk. He ran his fingers over the hard, smooth surface. The satisfying sound of crackling leather filled the room as he opened the cover. He inhaled the musty scent of old paper and ink as it wafted to his nose.

Sight – this isn’t always necessary since he is clearly looking at the book. Depending on how important the book is, will depend on how much time I put into describing it and the interaction. This book is important, so it warrants a better description. At this point, I have decided that picking the book up doesn’t make sense. It’s unnecessary. (New note, sight is tricky, it often causes filter words to jump in and play. In these examples, I’ve already put Satisfying and crackling in and nowadays I’d take them out too. Peered can be a filter word. In most descriptions, if the other four senses are involved sight is implied. Look, looked, looking, see, saw, seen, peer, peered, peering, etc. are all filter words that can weaken a sentence. They also tend to be in sentences that TELL rather than SHOW the actions, emotions, etc.)

Joe peered down at the heavy black book on the desk. He ran his fingers over the hard, smooth surface and opened the cover. The satisfying sound of crackling leather filled the small room, as the musty scent of old paper and ink wafted to his nose.

Taste – I’m not likely to have him lick or eat the book, that would be weird. Maybe if this was a totally different scenario or he had a paper eating problem it would fit, however for this I’ll keep taste subtle.

Joe licked his salty lips as he peered down at the heavy black book on the desk. He ran his fingers over the hard, smooth surface and opened the cover. The satisfying sound of crackling leather filled the small room, as the musty scent of old paper and ink wafted to his nose.

If I were going to write this again now that I have more experience and know that there are more filter words and crutch words than I did at this point, it would look like this,

Joe’s tongue swept across his sweat salty lips. He traced the embossed letters in the smooth surface with his fingers before he opened the cover. As the nostalgic crackle of the black leather filled the small room, he wrinkled his nose at the musty scent of old paper and ink.

Removing the filter words and my crutch words(words I use too often) I was able to write a paragraph that I’m happy with.

Voila. Now Joe fully interacted with the book. Making him lick his lips also added emotion, depending on what came before this interaction it might be excitement, anticipation or nervousness maybe even fear.

My advice about senseless writing.
Take some time to make important objects blend into the story, make them become part of the experience and not a foreign object explained coldly. Basically, SHOW and don’t TELL. This is still good advice.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Don’t forget to check out, share and follow the new daily prompt I host. A new word every day!
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Today’s word is Sonorous. https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/your-daily-word-prompt-sonorous-september-27th-2018/

 

What’s Her Name? – Throwback Thursday Style #TBT

Good morning, it’s Thursday, and that means I’m going to post a throwback from my earlier posts. Essentially a re-post of an old archived post with new notes and observations. 

tbt 3

Anything added(except grammar and spelling corrections) are marked in green within the original Post’s text. 

The next post I’m going to revisit is What’s Her Name? . Originally posted on Aug 3, 2016 8:42 AM. The reason I’m revisiting is that I’ve been naming a lot of people lately and wanted to talk about it.

Blog name

What’s her name?

I thought naming my baby was difficult. This is worse! (I actually find it fun now, a lot of fun.)

The characters we create are people, but with a twist. I formed every aspect of them, the history of their likes and dislikes. Personality and flaws. Physical appearance and even emotional state. I get to play with their development or regression in the storyline and yes, I can even play God and make them fall in love or snuff them out. *insert evil laugh here* (I still adore this aspect. Having complete control over a character is empowering.)

I found controlling a person in every way made me feel responsible for them and attached. Therefore, a fitting name is important and I needed to get it right.

The thing I discovered with a name is that it can be a well of opportunity for humor, banter and even ridicule between characters and in dialogue. To my surprise, I also found it could shape how a person develops or stays stagnant. People need to grow and change, good or bad it doesn’t matter as long as they learn something along the way.

How do I pick a name? It depends if I have a character already in mind (This is harder) or if I’m creating someone new that I just added because the story demanded it. Minor and sub-minor characters get the close your eyes and pick from a list method. (Baby name books work great for this. Also websites and movie credits.)I was joking the other day about using scrabble pieces or boggle to create names. (I’ve never done this, but it’s still an option.)

I sometimes go for cheesy and name people things like Rose Thourne or I just look around, pick an object, and go with it. I’ve struggled with names and often I’ve asked someone what their favorite name for a girl is, or a boy. Or what name they think is sexy or annoying. Catch my drift? Ooh. Catt Drift. Nice and convenient. Except I like the 1-2 or 2-1 syllable rule for names. That would make her, Catelyn Drift or Catt Drifter. If the first name is one syllable then the last should be two or more and vice versa. (I still like this rule that I happened upon years ago. I don’t always follow it, but I often prefer the sound fo a name that is 1-2 2-1 1-3 3-2, you get the idea, each name should be different syllables. Not always, but it’s what I prefer.)

I actually used a placeholder for two characters until I found the right names for them. One was AAA and the other was SSS for no reason other than they would be easy to search and find and replace. They were my two main characters. (I use this type of placeholder for a lot of things now. Only I keep track or use a standard *** or XXX to hold a place. I never use more than one or two types nowadays to keep things simple.)

I wrote six chapters, hated someone’s name so much I changed it. It’s my story I can do what I please. That’s the beauty of being the all-powerful creator behind the Curtin pulling the strings and blowing smoke. (This still happens. However, a word of caution to blindly using the search and replace features “replace all” if its a name like Art then all words containing art will be changed. For example Art –> Doug. fDougther will replace farther. Simple names can be tricky. In this case, go one by one using the search and replace feature.)

Naming characters can be tricky but it can also be fun or meaningful. I now put more thought into names. I’ll check to see if certain names have typical personalities or how they are perceived. Is it a strong name? Is it a villainous name? Does the name have special meaning or is it a direct translation from an another language that might have meaning or be part of the plot? If it is an ethnic name, I check to make sure it’s not offensive and that I am using it correctly. 

The thing about naming a character is that I tend to pull from experience and history. So if a name seems too familiar or too convenient, I sometimes google it to see if it pops up in something recent, such as a movie or book. I’ll also say the name out loud a few times to see if it sounds good or not. “Hello, my name is Catt Drifter.”

My advice about naming your beloved creations.
If you don’t like it or you’re having a hard time visualizing your character because of the name, change it. Baby name books, baby name websites and ‘popular’ name websites are great. But don’t forget the old outdated names, I have found they make for great nicknames, shortened names or fantastic humor. Ironic names are fun if you know where the character is going or if their past is significant work it in.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

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https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/09/13/your-daily-word-prompt-convenient-september-13th-2018/

 

Filtering Filter Words

Filtering filter words post

Filtering Filter Words

Oh, those pesky Filter words. I talk about them a lot and for a good reason as I discussed in Filtering Out Those Filter WordsIt’s really very unnecessary and I’m ‘that’ kind of writer. Filter words are words that can easily be filtered out because they don’t have a significant impact on the sentence. They are crutch words that can make a sentence lazy, repetitive or even boring.

I will go through a story using the “search and replace” feature to highlight all the filter words in various colors as I mentioned in Well, color me silly.

Along with filter words I include are all ending in ING and all adverbs ending in LY. I also include exclamation points ! and question marks ?. Adverbs weaken sentences that have much more potential. I highlight ! because people don’t yell nearly as, much as they might be written to shout. Also, I try to limit the amount of rhetorical or narrative questions. In dialogue, they are fine, but I try not to pepper too many into the narrative.

So what are they? I have a long list of words that I have compiled over the years. Words that I tend to stick to sentences instead of better words. I lean on some more than others. Here they are listed in alphabetical order with the number of incidences that occurred for each within a book I’m currently re-writing, editing and revising. I like to multitask on the first modification of the first draft. The book is only 30,627 words, so these numbers are not too bad. I am looking to beef this story up and add a lot more words, but I don’t want the filter words etc. to drag the story down.

868      ing
566      was
421      ?
403      ly
343      that
174      is
158      But
152      up
145      know
145      said
113      look
109      can
108      hand
90       see
89       just
88       could
70       remember
62       think
61       head
60       eyes
59       Then
53       feel
52       very
50       ask
49       smile
49       than
46       !
46       hear
45       turn
43       down
43       move
40       been
36       – single dash
31       face
31       walk
29       try
28       well
27       bit or a bit
21       felt
21       knew
19       Really
19       saw
18       breath
18       understand
17       guess
17      reach
17       sigh
16       tried
15       touch
14       seem
14       sound
13       nod
12       grab
12       wonder
11       stare
11       watch
9        shrug
8        taste
7        realize
7        stand
6        hale (inhale exhale)
5        frown
5        somehow
4        able to
4        says
3        blink
3        however
3        notice
2        quite
2        replied
2        somewhat
1        ;
1        decide
1        experience
0        …
0        note
0        rather

Does this mean I get rid of them all? No. I will sometimes set a goal of say 50% or 75%. Depending on the word I may want to eliminate them 100%. It honestly depends on the word and how it’s used.

As you see some of those words had Zero incidences. That’s because I’ve learned. For them, they will probably stay put. I will take a look to make sure the sentence is good, but I’m not worried for any that are less than ten or zero.

The top five will always be the biggest offenders. The top ten are still the top ten. The next ten to twenty are worth taking a good look at.

I bet you’re wondering why “WAS” is up there? Voicing. Often I write WAS and IS interchangeable. I try not to do that. What I prefer to use is “IS” whenever possible. If I want WAS then I use it whenever possible. This is of course primarily for narrative, in dialogue the rules are different. I will try to keep a character consistent in their voice.

Action words such as, LOOK, SEE, TOUCH, SHRUG, SMILE, FROWN, NOD, etc. will be looked at carefully. There are better ways to describe actions and to show emotions too. These words are often found in sentences that TELL instead of SHOW.

If nothing more, I highly recommend looking at my top twenty. If you have a beta reader or if you use the feature on your word program to read your text back to you(This is awesome for finding small errors and sentence flow issues) If you use them you will notice words that you rely on too much. They may be on this list or they may not. But if you have words that appear more often than they should, it can put a reader off.

I keep track of the numbers for my own personal use. I will make a spreadsheet with the numbers from the first draft and recheck them (using the find feature) for each consequential edit or revise until I’m happy with the number of them I see.

My advice about Filter words
Find and destroy! Actually highlight them before you start editing or revising using the search and replace feature, then find a better way to write the sentence or find a better more valuable word. 

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Where Did It Go? – Throwback Thursday Style #TBT

Good morning, it’s Thursday, and that means I’m going to post a throwback from my earlier posts. Essentially a re-post of an old archived post with new notes and observations. 

tbt 3

Anything added(except grammar and spelling corrections) are marked in green within the original Post’s text. 

The next post I’m going to revisit is Where Did It Go? . Originally posted on Sep 11, 2016 9:12 AM. The reason I’m revisiting is that we all need to be reminded of items that disappear.

stumped

Where did it go?

I have found myself stumped more than once while on my writing journey. A stumper of a moment that stands out the most is the loss of a prominent object. Where did it go?

In chapter two, I introduce a characters vice, an object she carries with her always. Let’s say it’s a pocket knife, her security blanket, and foreshadow for other conversations. All of a sudden, I realized two chapters later that the knife disappeared without my authorization and was completely forgotten. Oops.

I need to write it back in, but now the story has progressed without it and I prefer that it’s gone. It was awkward and held her back.  What to do, what to do? Write it out? Change the story? I thought about it and realized it needs to stay, but clearly not for long. Then it struck me, kill the knife off like a beloved, but useless character. This could be fun.

I went back with a sly grin on my face, made a point to have another character to remove it from her presence subtly. Later he presents it to her in a humorous way, both embarrassing her and making her realize just how useless it is and that she needed to let it go. By doing this I killed off the object, that started with meaning, but it’s purpose petered out. An added bonus is that it was a great way to kick-start her character development. Her journey to be less dependent on others and things now out of the gates, her race has just begun. Thanks to the ‘security blanket’ knife being let go, it also symbolized her leaving her old self behind as she leaves it behind as well.

Objects can be as simple as a cup of coffee, or as complicated as a pet. Whatever the case may be the item must be interacted with or discarded tactfully. Here are some items I notice that often go missing by lack of writing the item consistently.

Purses
Wallets
Coffee cups
Cigarettes
Pens
Gum
Briefcase, book, papers or envelopes
Food
Jacket
Tickets
Cellphone
Car keys
Weapons

The point is to notice these magic act items have disappeared and evaluate their worth. Were they there to enhance the character or provide an unnecessary action tag? Do they show a flaw or quirk in character or is it mundane? What I mean is you can’t have someone nursing a cup of joe as if it’s a life-giving device then have them run off to chase something. Where did the coffee go? Make sure to tie it up and set it down or have it spill and the character curse about the hot coffee or the loss of the precious drink. Either way, if you add an interactive item don’t let it vanish.

If it’s a meal that they are participating in, it doesn’t need to be a play by play of every bite savored for its perfection or despised for it’s cheap lackluster. The easiest way to conclude a meal is to have them set their fork and knife down. How they do that can be indicative of the character and emotions. If there are no emotions, say to slam the fork down, toss it nonchalantly or stab the other person, then maybe check to see if that eating scene is important to the story or the character. The same goes for gum or cigarettes, do they dispose of the waste respectfully or do they stick the gum under a table or toss the cigarette butt in someone’s face? I try not to have an object interacted with, be of no use to the story. Use the item, I try not to have a character treat an item the way I would. It is a great way to show emotion or intention.

Opportunity can knock in the most unexpected ways. A forgotten object remembered, can shift the story or characters development in a tangible way. She didn’t ever need the knife, just some confidence and a dose of reality. That I was able to make it more important to her growth as a person, while removing it from the story, was an amazing and unexpected outcome.

My advice about being stumped.
Look at the problem from another point of view, perhaps your plan or direction isn’t the only possible outcome. Have some fun with objects that have no real purpose. Give them a purpose and let them show a characters emotional state, bad habits or intent.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Stump

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Getting A Little Touchy Feely – Throwback Thursday Style #TBT

Good morning, it’s Thursday, and that means I’m going to post a throwback from my earlier posts. Essentially a re-post of an old archived post with new notes and observations. 

tbt 3

Anything added(except grammar and spelling corrections) are marked in green within the original Post’s text. 

The next post I’m going to revisit is Getting A Little Touchy Feely . Originally posted on Sep 9, 2016 9:55 AM. The reason I’m revisiting is that we all need to be reminded about using variations of feel in writing. I know I do. 

touchy-feely

Getting A Little Touchy Feely

Feel, feeling and felt. Three destructive little filter words. These words shift perspective from the story and into the character. It’s awkward to read and leaves a reader feeling disjointed even if they aren’t aware. I don’t write in first person perspective so these words in particular can cripple a sentence fast.

What to do about them. I use them a lot when I write, it’s how I get out what needs to be said, what I need to express. It’s lazy and I’m okay with that because it won’t stay that way. I searched my manuscript and found the following incidences:

Bia-Atlas:
Felt 67

Feel 112
Feeling/feelings 23

Prophecy Ink 1st draft:
Felt 89
Feel 97
Feeling/feelings 39

Not all of them are filter word incidences. Within conversation or dialogue, they are fine or as a verb unrelated to emotions. These three are often (At least in my case) plunked into wordy sentences or super lazy ones.

Since I wrote this I’ve done more editing and found better ways to highlight other errors and filter words. I’ll highlight the ones I missed in these examples in hot pink.

For example.

Joe put the sandwich together hastily. He felt the hunger pangs in his stomach. It had been ten hours since he remembered to eat last. He left the house with the printout to meet Sasha. He was excited to show her the new proof and felt certain she would believe him now. (52)

There’s a whole lot of telling going on. Let me try that again.

Finally, Joe found some undeniable proof after searching eight hours straight without even a snack. His stomach growled as he picked up the printout, his hastily made ham sandwich, and ran out the door to meet Sasha. (37)

 That was better, less wordy too. Here’s a mistake I make all the time.

Joe dragged his feet along the path, feeling the course gravel scuffed the soles of his shoes. (17)

There is no reason to feel through his shoes and yet I am guilty of having characters ‘feeling’ unnecessary things.

Joe dragged his feet, scuffing his shoes along the coarse gravel path. (12)

See now I would not have that ING in there. Scuffing. 

The coarse gravel scraped against Joe’s shoes as he dragged his feet along the path. (15)

Editing and revising is a learned skill. Over time I’ve learned to examine sentences closer, to take a good hard look at the value of each word. 

Joe is an emotional person so writing his feelings can be tricky.

Joe looked at Sasha then back to the path. He felt frustrated with her constant lack of interest in him lately. She just wouldn’t listen to reason, he was right this time and he knew it. He even had the proof in his hand to show her. He felt angry when she sighed dismissively and now he was ready to snap. (61)

In that one, I made a few oopsies. Filter words, wrong perspective, and wordiness. Instead of showing, I told his emotions.

Joe glanced at Sasha as he clenched his jaw. She was ignoring the hard evidence that he worked hard to find. She rolled her eyes when he tried to show her again. When she sighed dismissively, he clenched his fists, crumpling the precious printout. (44)

That’s a lot of clenching for one paragraph and still, there are some weak sentences. This is why I’ve started revisiting old posts. I wanted to show that as writers, we are constantly growing, learning and changing. This is how I might revise that revision now.

The muscles tightened in Joe’s jaw as Sasha ignored his hard found evidence. She dismissed the second attempt with an eye-roll, and when the third won him a heavy sigh, he crumpled the precious printout in his fist. (38)

Technically that brought that example down from the original 61 to 38. Not bad. Especially since this is a wordy manuscript that needs a lot of TLC.

Sometimes it’s not about word count and more about beefing up empty sentences. I’m going to highlight my filter words for these in pink as well. Let’s see how many make it through my “revisions.”

Feeling tired, Sasha crawled into the bath. The hot water felt divine. (12)

It’s like whiplash. In her mind, out and then back in. To fix this I would add words, it’s not always about keeping the word count down. That and it was a very boring sentence. The temptation to overdo it here is strong. Before I learned to make every word count, (Haha at least I try to) and to stop double describing things, it might have looked like this.

Stifling a yawn of exhaustion, Sasha eased herself into the hot jasmine scented bath. The heat from the hot water and the scent of flowers soothing her tired body. (28)

Gee, do you think the water is hot? Baths usually are duh, I’m not sure, and it’s not super clear, but she might possibly be tired. *Rolling my own eyes.

Yawning, Sasha eased into the jasmine-scented bath. The heat from the water soothing her tired muscles. (17)

There much better. Only five words added from the original and it’s not hurting my brain to read it. Except I have two ING’s in there. Now that I’ve had a lot more practice at this let’s see if I can fix it.

Sasha stifled a yawn as she eased into the jasmine-scented bath. Her sore body rejoiced as she relaxed from the heat. (21)

I could easily reduce it back down if I needed to, but sometimes more is better than less in a fugacious moment such as this one.

My advice about feelings.
Everyone has them, good or bad just make sure to keep them outside the character’s body or mind. Unless you are writing in first-person, show the feeling don’t tell it. he clenched his jaw (instead of) he felt frustrated.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

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