Writing Page

You might have already discovered this, but my main blog is building the prologue for my novel, SUBAQUA. But here, you will find all my writing-related stuff. Oh look! There’s something there now.

Four Disorders That Afflict Me as a Writer

If you love to revise your work as much as I do, then maybe you should try some of these techniques that I usually employ in my first, or sometimes second, drafts. By mimicking these behaviors, you can guarantee yourself hours of satisfying revisions. You might also give your critique buddies an easy target—a gift, really—of suggested revisions to your otherwise perfect manuscript.

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  • Tense Schizophrenia

I struggle with this debilitating disease, and continue to struggle with the treatment as well. In my first manuscript, a few others noticed that I tended to switch tenses mid-paragraph, or even mid-sentence. This causes my readers to wonder if there might be an underlying time travel theme in my manuscript. Examine this sentence:

“It looks like we could be here for a while.” Judging by the look on her face, that possibility had not yet occurred to Ariana.

‘Looks’ and ‘Judging’ are present tense, but ‘had’ is past. I think I should go with ‘has not yet occurred,’ which brings Ariana into the present tense as well. Then I think, “Big deal. It’s only a small episode. It’s not like these mistakes are all through my manuscript.” Sadly, I realize that I have many episodes like this, and correcting them requires a keen eye and a lot of intense (pardon the pun) focus.

I also tend to look at these sentences and say to myself, “Huh?” Sometimes, it takes me a few minutes to realize the error of my ways, and THAT is why I am not a professional editor.

  • Superfluous Lexicon Disorder

It seems to me that I really like a variety of very useless works, and I can imagine removing a great number of them with just a tap of the delete key. If you are a more seasoned writer than I am, that sentence should have given you a migraine. But I wrote this to demonstrate my affliction with SLD. Why does it seem to me? I know people say this, but if this isn’t linked to someone’s dialog, then I should simply say, “I really like a variety of useless words.”

But then there’s really. It’s another of my crutch words. A lot of things are really cool, really tall, really ugly, or really very small. Really, is really just like very, but in an even more colloquial sense. Things can be very tall, but in my neighborhood, they were always really tall. Maybe we were just making a distinction between things that were actually tall, vice things that were figuratively tall. I don’t know. It’s how I roll.

I do know that I can do a lot of things. This was not pointed out to me. Rather, I noticed upon reading my manuscript that I was driving myself crazy with this three-letter word. I suppose there are subtleties associated with using can in front of my verbs. “I can imagine” might mean something slightly different than “I imagine.” In the first example, I might imagine, and in the second example, I state that I currently imagine. But I imagine you know what I mean.

I also suppose a lot of things, and I just do a lot of things (Forgive me, Nike). The best step toward recovery that I have found is to create a list of my crutch words. When I get to the revision stage, I simply do a word search on each one, and review each usage of the offending word. My list includes: can, very, really, just, suppose, like, seems, but, and a whole bunch of words that end in ‘ly,’ and a bunch of other words I haven’t identified yet that I will add later. It takes a lot of time to go through a long manuscript reviewing 320 occurrences of really, but it’s really worth it.

  • Foraging Protagonist Syndrome

I have written a couple of manuscripts and a few prompts and short stories, and the one thing that affects my characters—especially my protagonist—is near-constant hunger. I like to use food to describe the general feeling (like coffee and a donut might show a hurried breakfast while my protagonist runs to catch the bus just in time), or to provide my readers with a reason to visit the refrigerator (for an aromatic bacon sandwich or tantalizing chocolate sauce for their ice cream).

My critique buddies have singled this one out for me. My protagonist stops every couple of pages to eat a sandwich, grab a snack, stop for coffee, have a hamburger, drink a berry cooler, order a shrimp and egg platter, or have a slice of cake. Apparently, there are two things you should not do while you’re hungry—go to the grocery store, or write a manuscript.

That said, I keep most of those foodie moments in my writing, because I like them; however, with awareness of FPS, I am able to temper my usage of such examples, and ensure that they contribute to my story in some way. Otherwise, I might alter them or delete them entirely.

  • Adverbium Ad Nauseum

There are many opposing treatments for the over-use of adverbs. Some say to eliminate adverbs completely, and others say to use them sparingly. I choose sparingly. Of course, I don’t decide that until after I’ve finished writing, and then realize (or I am informed) that I sure love them adverbs! My good friends with the ly suffix show up all over the place, but I don’t usually notice them until I’ve hit save at the end. I am surprised by how many I find, and I do that by typing “ly “ (note the space after the ly) into the Find tool. As I stated above, I simply (gahh!) go through the manuscript evaluating each occurrence, and I either rewrite the passage or I don’t. It’s as simple as that. But, I feel more in control after I’ve done this, and I am more apt to stand on the soapbox and defend my decision.

The Prescription

There are many sources of grammar advice on the web, and they are pretty, I mean really, umm. . . very easy to find. Usually I will type something into Google like, “then vs. than” and a site like quickanddirtytips.com’s Grammar Girl or writersdigest.com will come to my rescue. Then there are resources like Strunk and White’s Elements of Style or Steven King’s On Writing that provide additional fodder for your decision. But whatever you decide, be happy with your writing!

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