Tag Archives: WIP

NO CRUTCHES ALLOWED!

Your Secret Editing Weapon: Lose Your Crutch Words

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.

Just don’t

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

 

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NO RETREAT … NO SURRENDER!

I WON A “MAJOR AWARD!”  (Think: A Christmas Story – leg lamp) — back in December, 2015.

It turned out to be a legitimate random drawing for three nights and four days at “When Words Count Retreat” in Rochester, Vermont, for myself and a guest. My husband  and I checked in last Thursday!

We had no idea what to expect.

We became a bit concerned after traveling the last mile of our journey from southern New Jersey on a gravel-covered, narrow, backwoods road, and joked about “The Blair Witch Project”—(thanking God it was daytime).

Blair Witch image

 BUT, WE WERE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED (and relieved)  WHEN 

…we pulled into the drive of a lovely white farmhouse sporting a welcoming red door.IMG_2395

Behind that door was a total writer’s paradise. In between the fabulous gourmet meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner—and the cocktails, of course!) there was uninterrupted writing time! A concept completely foreign to me, until last week.

In the evenings, guests read portions of their current work, and the rest (including our host, Steve Eisner) critiqued what was read, in a professional, caring, and encouraging way.

With the food, the new friends we made, the spectacular mountain views, and crystal clear air,  we felt completely pampered.

If you ever get the chance to go—do it!

SURRENDER to this, or some other RETREAT!

Your “Work in Progress” (and your soul) will be glad you did!

Have you ever attended a “writer’s retreat?” If you have, please share your experience (good or bad) in the “Comments.”

I’d love to hear your stories!

 

ALL ABOARD!

So—A young Jewish girl from Philly walks into a bar…(You haven’t heard this one, have you?)

 

Actually, it is the year 1888, and the bar is the Gem Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota.

I’m about 4,500 words into writing my next book (an adult historical novel loosely based on true events) and I hope you will come along for the ride!

 

At the moment, our seventeen-year-old protagonist is on a train, headed for Chicago. An attractive thirty-something stranger has insinuated himself into her adventure by taking the seat next to her. Away from home and family for the first time in her life, Mae is both wary and excited!

 

I hope you will find the time, dear readers, to follow along for periodic updates on: “MAE heads WEST” — (my working title).

 

(NOTE: If any of my readers are, or know experts in early modes of transportation in the U.S., I would love to hear from you in the COMMENTS. I have several questions that my internet research has not provided answers to, and would appreciate your valuable assistance going forward.)


SORRY, I’VE GOT TO DASH!

For all of you serious writers out there, I offer you this link to a very informative lesson on lines of various length!

How to Use Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes

When you have completed reading that helpful blog post, please return here, and tell me (and my millions of followers) if you learned anything new about lines.

That’s the long and the short of it!

IT’S ALMOST TIME!

WELL, FOLKS, WE’RE DOWN TO THE WIRE…

Waiting for the proof copy of my book, “Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the ‘Bloody Fifth’ in Philadelphia.”

I’ve got other things to do with my life (as we all do), but all I can think of is the book!

I go from being giddy that I’ve accomplished this goal, to being sad that’s it’s almost done! From excited butterflies to nausea. I feel like I’m in a Twilight Zone episode where time stands still waiting for the big plot reveal!

While I wait…I thought I’d share the final cover art with you, my dear readers.  Hopefully, it meets with your approval.

Amazon—here we come!

FCBC

LABOR OF LOVE

 

Baby elephanthttp://www.phuket101.net/2015/02/baby-elephant-playing-on-beach.html

 

Did you know elephants are pregnant for almost two years? Actually, the average is twenty-two months!  And then they deliver a baby weighing as much of two hundred and thirty pounds! Can you imagine?

Yes. I can. I’ve been pregnant with my book, “BOSSES AND BLACKJACKS: A Tale of the Bloody Fifth in Philadelphia” for three years! At least, that’s what it felt like. In reality, with time out for holiday seasons, it was actually more like two-and-one-half years—so I’ve still got Momma Pachyderm beat!

Morning sickness was the endless research. The girth increase was felt with each additional chapter written. Toward the end, attempting to bend over to pick something up from the floor or cutting my toenails, was represented by the painful process of editing.

Now—at last—I’m in labor!

By that, I mean I have sent the entire finished manuscript to be formatted and finalized for submission to the magical world of Amazon!

Here’s hoping the delivery will go smoothly! (I can guarantee my book baby will not weigh 230 pounds!)

Stay tuned for the “birth announcement!”

 

 

 

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for helpful writing advice.

Perhaps you’ve noticed—there’s a blizzard of it out there.  And like snowflakes, no two advisors are the same, in the way they drift their sage words against the fence corralling our own individual genius.

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for having your shovel handy at moments like this.

In editing my book, Bosses and Blackjacks, I’ve been struggling to decide if the beginning is too slow. But, today I happened upon a mound of advice that I did not have to dig through to understand.

I share it with you now, dear reader:

“Opening a novel with a lot of fast action is like putting your reader on a Japanese bullet train going 320 miles an hour. The landscape outside the window is all blurry.

There’s no reason to look at it because you can’t really make sense of it. You might as well take a nap.”

(By Sally Apokedak, @sally_apokedak
Sally is a literary agent with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency and is a popular speaker at writer’s conferences around the country.)

I agree with Sally.

No need to change my book’s beginning. Ease into it, so my readers have a sense of my protagonist and the world he lives in, before he goes crashing headlong into a drift of life-threatening hairpin turns.

Do you agree that we all latch onto any advice that fits exactly with what we were thinking in the first place—as I did here? We are vindicated We feel affirmed. We have packed our egos neatly and made it to the station on time.

All aboard! We are on the right track!