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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Death of a Manuscript--Part 2

I guess I'm turning this into a bit of a series, though the posts are quite far apart. Any time I start to see mistakes made over and over again in writing, I'll probably do another one of these posts, and hopefully they're helpful to someone. Generally I'll see those frequent mistakes because I'm editing my own work and noticing my own PLETHORA of mistakes. Of course, I'm part of a weekly critique group as well, so I'm always keeping an eye out.

To read Part one, click here.

It's funny to me that, as writers, we tend to have our own set of weakness/mistakes that we make over and over. A bit one for me is the question mark. For some reason I can't explain, when I'm in the groove and writing, I'm totally afraid of the question mark. My group always knows that when there's a question (in dialogue) they'll have to circle the end of the sentence so I can go back and put in question marks. I'm not sure why I do this. Maybe it's just that I'm writing so fast and putting a question mark vs. a period requires the extra step (pressing shift) so my brain just skips right over it. Understand, I don't do this consciously. My group members will just say, okay, you missed seven question marks this chapter. And I'll be like, yeah, okay.

So here are today's pointers:

1) Only describe feelings/sensations/etc from your POV character's POV! This may seem obvious, but I've read plenty of scenes where Character A is the POV character and they're talking to/interacting with Character B. But then, somehow, Character A witnesses the look on their own face. This can't happen! Anytime you describe a feeling, sensation, look, or other general description, make sure to ask yourself if this is something your POV character actually could observe. If not, cut it, or move it to a different scene with a different POV character.

2) Don't show and THEN tell, or vise versa. We all know that we should be showing and not telling at all, as far as that is possible in our novel. I recently heard a book blogger comment that she hated it when an author describe the exact same events from several viewpoints. While I can see the value in this from author's point of view, I can also see how it could become tedious to the reader. The thing that bugs me more, though, is when someone shows and then tells, or tells and then shows. Even if this is an instance when it works better for your book to tell, we really don't need both. For example:

He walked out onto the wet grass. Suddenly his feet went out from under him and he landed on his butt. The grass was slippery.

Okay, maybe not the greatest example, (give me a break! I made it up on the fly!) but it gets my point across. You've already shows the wet grass and that he fell. Most humans have some idea what it's like to walk on wet grass, so unless you're writing to an audience of martians, you don't need to tell us why he fell. We GET that the grass is slippery. You showed us, then decided we needed to be told. TRUST YOUR AUDIENCE! As a fellow writer, trust me I know this can be hard to do, but if you don't figure it out, your audience will feel condescended to and will simply put down your book.

3) And finally, this week's words to steer clear of:

a) so -- I mean this as a descriptive word. "She was so excited to be..." 'So' used this way feels like a comparative word, but you aren't comparing it to anything, and it will leave your reader wondering where the rest of the sentence went. Perhaps that isn't grammatically logical, but the reader doesn't care about grammar or logic. Leave this kind of 'so' out.

b) really -- like very, this is really too often used, and you really don't need it. You'll find if you really take the time to edit 'really' out of your manuscript, it really will be better. The only time it's allowed is to show a character's annoyance. As in, "Really?" (Think Grey's Anatomy. :D)

c) Any and all preface words. I don't know if this is the right term for these, but it's what I call them. They're filler words generally found at the beginning of a sentence, though they can come at the middle or end as well. I.E. actually, well, really, so, in spite of, however, anyway... You get the idea.

Well, that's it for today's edition of Death of a Manuscript! Until next time, happy editing! :D


  1. Liesel that POV thing is a good one. It really helps put the reader in the mood.