The rumbling and swooshing and screeching woke me long before the alarm clock sounded.
Did a freight train jump the tracks? Was there a terrorist attack? A horrible traffic accident?
In a stumbling, drunken-like stupor, I made my way to the open bedroom window to discover the source of the fearsome cacophony . . . It sounded like a thousand needles prickling the predawn sky.
Standing there in the cool darkness, I realized, as the latest gush surrounded me and pushed past — The last of the brown, crumbling, dead leaves were being hurled and smashed to smithereens against any barrier standing in their way by . . .
Mother Nature, blowing Autumn off and making way for the entrance of Winter!
(I understand she has an important job to do . . . but, couldn’t the bitch have waited until after the alarm went off? Geez.)
This was one of those Halloweens that seared itself into the recesses of my mind, just waiting to bring a smile upon request by my consciousness.
I make that request every year at this time.
Wasn’t it yesterday that I said, “to hell with it!” and cut a good white sheet to drape over my little boy’s frail frame? And wasn’t it that same yesterday when I taught my little girl the Roaring Twenties song, “Anything Goes?”
I can still hear him roar as he raised his stretched arms, because, to him, that would be much more frightening than simply shouting “boo!”
Placing the dark brown wig over her bright red tresses to hide her identity from her classmates was the only demand my little flapper made.
To ensure the whole Halloween experience would be absorbed into their own memory-banks — I reminded him to roar at each door . . . and her little girl voice belted out: “In olden days a bit of stocking was looked on as something shocking…now, heaven knows —anything goes!”
This Halloween season, I hope you share your own recollections with friends and family, and keep building on those “Misty, water-colored memories.”
I’d also love to read them in the comments section of this post, if you’re so inclined, Dear Readers!
I know the copy editor was just trying to be nice, but I burst out laughing at her carefully worded comment in my last manuscript. I had to imagine what she must have thought as she realized she needed to mention it.
What the flick?
“Please note ‘flickering’ throughout” she wrote. Then she put a smiley-face so I’d understand she wasn’t being critical, only supportive, and went on to say, “There seems to be a lot of flickering going on in your manuscript.”
Flickering I thought? Flickering? I was baffled. But when I did an edit-find for flicker, there it was. I mean, there it was. Again and again and again.
Monitors flickered. People’s eyes flickered. Birds flickered. Lights flickered. I can’t even remember all the things that flickered. Somehow I had gotten that word into my head, and apparently it seemed like a good one, and every day as I wrote my thousand words, I guess I figured I should use it. It never crossed my mind that I was repeating it. Like crazy.
Has your own version of “flicker” happened to you? Trust me, it has. When we’re in the midst of writing, when we’re in the zone and the words are flowing, our brains tend to default to words that are comfortable. How many times do you write “of course”? How many times do you write “right”? Right? How about “just”?
What would happen if you went through your manuscript looking for those words? How many do you think you would find? I promise you, you’ll be shocked at how many times you type “just.” You don’t even notice it. But it is just clogging your manuscript.
Oops, I said it again. And “even.” That’s another one.
Actually, crutch words make everyone the same
Whatever. Does more than one character say whatever? Does more than one character say “you’re kidding me?” Does more than one character say “I know, right?” ? Not only do we latch on to our personal crutch phrases, but we tend to assign them to every character. That’s a pitfall because it makes every character sound just the same.
I mean—the same. Not “just” the same.
Actually. Certainly. Supposedly. Allegedly. By the name of. As a result. Really. How many times do you use those?
More important: How many of them do you need?
Pick one of your words. Put it in edit-find. (You know how to do that, right?) Prepare to be amazed. And you might as well laugh, because now you have the power to fix it.
Next, see if your manuscript is—over qualified. How often do you use kind of, sort of, possibly, maybe, a little? What are you qualifying? What would happen to your manuscript if you cut those sentence softeners? Try it. Doesn’t it sound stronger to say it is something, rather than a little bit something?
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this
And check your choreography. How often do people tuck their hair behind their ear? Wave someone off? Flip a hand. Raise an eyebrow. Raise both eyebrows? How often do people nod? Or pause? Or pause, nodding?
Do people shrug? Do they grin? Do they shrug and grin? Think about it. In real life, people rarely do those things. Shrugging, maybe. Grinning? Not so much. And shrugging and grinning is as goofy as it gets.
It’s damn important, though, for a stronger manuscript
When you excise your crutch words, you’ll see your manuscript take on a new quality. In my current WIP, the copy editor noted the word “though.” I mean…though? But when I did my faithful edit-find, I found I’d used it 72 times. Seventy-two times! I thought: why didn’t I say although? Why didn’t I say but? Why didn’t I rearrange the sentence so the entire structure was different? When I took out all but about 15 of those “thoughs,” the sentence rhythm changed. The balance changed. After noticing my repetitions, I had to think harder about new ways to express the same thought—and the result was a stronger manuscript.
Oh, I forgot “very.” How many verys do you have? Mark Twain, the story goes, had a perfect solution. He suggested every time you want to use the word “very,” replace it with the word “damn.” Then your editor will take it out, and your sentence will read the way it should have in the first place.
So here’s today’s tip—go on a treasure hunt for your personal repetitions. And keep a list of them to remind you!
And then—get writing.
The “find” option can become your best friend when editing. Please feel free to share your most common crutch words in the Comments section of this post…it may help the rest of us kick those crutches to the curb!—L.C. Bennett Stern
A friend of mine posted this fun piece on Facebook, and I thought you, Dear Readers, would enjoy playing along. The link is at the bottom of this post.
Below, is the result I received when I entered my birthdate:
Waning Crescent in Capricorn —
This Birthday falls on a Waning Crescent in the constellation Capricorn. Sometimes called the “Old Moon”, this phase is visible in the Eastern sky just before dawn. Each day of the Waning Crescent the Moon’s bright side is getting smaller until the New Moon.
Individuals born during this Moon Phase are extremely imaginative and creative. They also are very spiritual and attuned to the unseen forces of the Universe.
Waning Crescent Moon
The Waning Crescent Moon is the very last Moon phase, where the Moon is nearing the completion of its cycle. Individuals born under this phase are influenced by the energy of an aged, wise Moon, and are gifted with a kind of energy that isn’t necessarily reflected in personality or even in the physical world.
In other words, you are likely a talented psychic who is closely in touch with your spiritual side, even if you may not realize it. Through dreams and daydreams, you may receive insights or even visions that help you to be more successful in life. In line with this tendency, you may also have an extremely active imagination. This is because human imagination is the most active under low light conditions – near-darkness, with just a hint of what’s around us, is a very fertile ground for the imagination.
Your deep insights can make you seem mystical, like you exist in a different dimension from other people. Combined with your tendency to have unconventional hobbies, behaviour, and opinions, this can make you somewhat of a loner. Many people may find you too eccentric to relate to on a deeper level, even if they appreciate your wisdom and advice.
Your best bet is to find people who are just as imaginative as you are, and who appreciate you in your entire glorious, weird self.
(I’m guessing some of my friends here fit this mold!)