Day 256: 9 Words to Get Rid of In Your Writing

I’m currently in the major revision cycle! This helped me a ton!

In the Garden of Eva

YESTERDAY’S STATS:

# of pages written: 8.5

# of literary mags submitted to: 2

I have a flash fiction piece coming out in Compose Journal this spring, and recently the fiction editor asked me to look at a “few little things” that needed reworking in my story. She had uploaded my story onto google docs, and all three of the Compose editors had made comments. A lot of comments. I went through and responded to them, and they commented back. We haggled a bit when I didn’t want to switch the order of two sentences or get rid of a word I thought was necessary.

But I did end up deleting words, reworking a few sentences, and adding a new description to the ending. Through it all, they encouraged and supported me. This, I thought, my heart swelling, must be what it feels like to have a really great editor…

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Character Eye Descriptions: The Window to Your Story

Get away from the cliches. Eyes are windows to the soul blog post from @SharlaWrites. #writetip #amwriting #writingtips

Writers In The Storm Blog

By Sharla Rae, @SharlaWrites

Sharla_EyePhotopinIf poets are to be believed,eyes are the windows to the soul.

Rather than using clichéd or common descriptions,why not use “explicit” eye descriptions to give your reader a real peek into a character’s psyche?

I’ll touch on eye color, movement, and appearance and, of course, I have some helpful lists to inspire ideas.

Eye color

It’s a given that writers mention eye color as a character feature. Color can be mentioned every so often to remind readers what the character looks like. But! Don’t hit them over the head with it.

Besides using eye color as a facial feature it can sometimes be used to identify who is speaking especially if the color distinctive.

Blue eyes widened and she threw up both hands. “Now hold on a minute.”
OR
Her amber cat eyes narrowed. “xxxx”

A character might have plain old blue or brown…

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Slowly killing adverbs quietly and softly

When I write, I just write. For the most part, I just want to flush thoughts out onto a page. I worry about revising and editing later. Well. Sometimes.

One day, I tried this online tool called Edit Minion to catch sneaky things like adverbs and prepositions and weak words. It found several adverbs in my first chapter, so I decided to search through my entire young adult fantasy MS of 73,000 words.

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This was the result:

  • Slowly = 45
  • Quickly = 45
  • Probably = 34
  • Suddenly = 28
  • Especially = 20
  • Gently = 16
  • Carefully = 9
  • Loudly = 8
  • Softly = 8
  • Simply = 7
  • Strangely = 6
  • Swiftly = 6
  • Deeply = 3

Yikes, right? But think about it this way.

Adverbs are pesky opportunities in your writing. They give you a chance to write out thoughts in the moment of your creative writing time. Your writing time is precious and valuable, so don’t let pesky adverbs hinder your flow. Adverbs are simply placeholders to return back to and revise later.

Just based on what I’ve learned in my journey, you want to minimize adverbs in your writing. Here are some ideas:

  1. Adverbs can be replaced with either stronger verbs or stronger description.
  2. Rearrange your sentences.
  3. You can also delete adverbs completely, leaving the line up to your reader’s imagination.
  4. You can keep some adverbs. Adverbs aren’t always the bad guy in writing, especially if used moderation.

I have put together some revised examples for you. Please note that my MC’s voice has changed during this process and these examples are from my WIP (so it’s not polished).

Revised examples:

Original: The heart was trapped within the roots, still struggling, trying to escape. I quickly looked away, hoping it wouldn’t start moving again.

Revised: The sharp ends of the roots pierced into the struggling heart, causing it to bulge from strangulation. The scene was so intriguing; I was unable to look away.

 

Original: Heavy breathing trickled down the back of my neck as I bumped right into something large. I jumped away quickly and let out a gasp.

Revised: A sudden puff of warmth tickled the back of my neck, and the hairs on my arm stood straight up. Someone or something was right behind me. I jumped forward, looked over my shoulder and let out a gasp.

 

Original: I didn’t say anything and remained crumbled on the ground. I applied more pressure on my arm, trying to ignore the pain and my urge to faint, and the blood slowly stopped coming out.

Revised: I didn’t say anything and remained crumbled on the ground. The blood slowed as I applied more pressure on my arm, trying to ignore the pain and my urge to faint. 

 

Original: I stretched my neck a little farther and caught a glimpse of something. Then, suddenly, when my eyes adjusted, the other prisoner was right in front of me. “There you are,” he said when our eyes met.

Revised: I stretched my neck a little farther and caught a glimpse of the silver mark on his arm. “There you are,” he said when our eyes met through the bars. 

World Building Over Beer

Your story is YOUR story. Doesn’t it sound like a marvelous free-for-all, especially when it comes to world building? Oh, how I wish it were only that simple. I’m a very visual person and love descriptions so much that I typically use double-adjectives, according to my CP. While you do want to leave some descriptions up to the reader’s imagination, you still want to be the ruler of your world and help your reader see what you see.

On a business trip to London with my husband, we had a conversation about my novel at a British pub. He was curious about the world I was building for my story. As I described the world aloud for probably the first time, the questions started pouring out. We changed some things, he asked pertinent questions that questioned my ideas. I liked the hard criticism especially when it makes me say, “Wow, I didn’t think about that.” I highly recommend discussing your world with someone in person because it really helps your world come alive

How to work on World Building:

  • Invite a guest into your world.
  • Discuss your world over beer (or your drink of choice).
  • Imagine yourself and your guest in your world and be observant of your surroundings.
  • Describe your world out loud, as if you were a tour guide, showing your guest your world for the first time.
  • Have an open mind and let them ask questions. I repeat. Let me ask questions.
  • Reflect on their questions (take notes). You don’t always have to implement every comment, idea or criticism that passes you.
  • Edit, revise and review!

Questions to ask yourself about your world:

  • Is it magical or realistic?
  • What is the time period?
  • What is the history of your world? Yes, you have to invent the past.
  • Do they have technology or not?
  • What is the language?
  • What sounds do you hear? Birds? Wind? Water?
  • What is the weather like? Cold? Hot?
  • What is the season?
  • What about the sky? The sun? The moon? The stars?
  • What is the landscape like? Trees? Beach? Mountain?
  • Are there structures, buildings?
  • What are the people wearing?
  • What is the government like? The law? The rulers?
  • How are people treated?
  • How does your MC fit there?
  • What about the other characters?
  • What is everyday life like there?

On crafting names:

  • As you craft names for places (and people), say those out loud.
  • Can you pronounce them yourself?
  • Write out how you would pronounce those names.
  • Research the meaning of words. (This is super important for all the obvious reasons!)

And finally, get ideas from other worlds and periods of history and twist it into what you want to see in your story.

“Stories start working on you in a thousand different ways.” ~ Orson Scott Card

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Cheers!