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 September, 2001

Say it Once, Say it Right

by Sandy Tritt

Let's face it. We're writers because we love words. We love the way they sound and we love the way they roll off our tongues. We love to string them together and give meaning to our existence through them. Words are our babies. And one of the toughest things we must do as professional writers is to weed through these babies we've created and eliminate those that don't pull their own weight. Yes, we are talking infanticide here. Killing our babies.

Redundancy is one of the carnal sins of writers. We don't always trust our words to do their job. We don't always trust our reader to catch our meaning the first time. So we repeat ourselves. Unfortunately, any word that doesn't add to a story, detracts.

Now, before you disconnect me, let me offer an alternative. For large groups of words that I just don't have the heart to kill, I keep a file on my hard drive titled "Babies." Whenever I write (what I consider) beautiful prose that just doesn't fit in with my story, I cut it from my manuscript and move it to my "Babies" file. That way, I don't feel like a murderer.

But for those little redundancies, the little repetitions (like in this sentence), the best alternative is death. Let's take a look at an example:

Shelly sat cross-legged on the over-sized sofa. Her life was about to change. She peeked inside the envelope. The letter in the envelope was neatly folded. She took the letter out of the envelope and opened it. She was afraid of what it would say. She was scared that Larry was giving her the brush-off. Her trembling hands held the paper open. With great trepidation, she read the words that would change her life forever. She would never be the same again.

Okay, redundancy irritates us. Did the writer think we were so bored we had nothing better to do than read the same thought over again? Or did the writer just think we were too stupid to catch on to what was happening? My guess is that the writer was trying to slow down the pacing and became lazy.

Regardless of the reason, we, as writers, don't want to irritate our readers. Therefore, we need to use care in choosing words that best say what we need to say, and they say those words once.

That's right. Once. We gotta trust our words to do their job and we gotta trust our reader to do his. So, let's revisit Shelly's letter and see what we can do with it:

Shelly sat cross-legged on the over-sized sofa and peeked inside the envelope. She removed the neatly folded letter and opened it. Her hands trembled as she read the words that would change her life forever.

Well -- it's better, but we can see the need to slow the pacing. To do that, we can add one of the following to the paragraph:

"She wiped her palms on the shirt Larry had given her."

Something to give the depth of her feelings: "She wouldn't be able to bear life without Larry."

The use of other senses: "The letter smelled of Old Spice. Shelly took a deep whiff and imagined Larry sitting next to her, holding her hand, rubbing her knuckles, bringing her fingers to his lips for a soft kiss."

See the Tip Sheet devoted to Pacing later in this series for more ideas on controlling the pacing. Redundancy can also come in the form of a single word or phrase. For example, "free gift" or "sum total." Entire websites are devoted to naming and eliminating these little nuisances.

Some writers repeat ideas in a list, such as, "She was tired, worn out, and exhausted." Okay. Wouldn't just saying she was exhausted serve the purpose? (Better, say it more creatively and actively, like, "Exhaustion hung to her like possums to their mama."

Be aware always of repetition in your writing. Crisp prose has no room for it.

(c) copyright 1999 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. May be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at tritt@wvadventures.net for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt

Inspiration for Writers tritt@wvadventures.net

Sandy's website











Survey Results

New Writers Poll

August, 2001

Our new writers poll isn't complete yet, but results so far are instructive. Thanks to those who responded. If you didn't respond, go to our  www.author-me.com by September 4, when the survey is discontinued.

1.     1. Frequency of visits.  Most respondents visited the site a couple of time per week. About half were readers of this newsletter as well.

2. Favorite Features. Our new "hitlist" was the most popular feature. (It shows how often each manuscript was read in the previous week.) Next were the main (fiction)  title page and then the poetry title page. Next in popularity were marketing help pages and then the international authors page. Next were StoryThread and the chat room. The copyright help pages were least popular.

3. Why visit AuthorMe? As expected, AuthorMe visitors were focused on writing and publishing. More than 80% preferred AuthorMe because it gives them a chance to compare their works with writings of other authors. Almost 70% used AuthorMe to publish their own works and read those of others. They described AuthorMe as an outlet for their expression, and appreciated that it measures frequency of reading. Less important were interaction with the writing community (35%) and keeping up to date on the marketplace (17%).

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E-books Revisited:

Problems, Problems...

Thoughts on the Adobe ebook Reader

by Jack Noel, Charter Member

If this new reader you mention is the Adobe eBook Reader, I'd say forget it.  Adobe's "basic" Acrobat Reader in any version from
3 to 5 seems just fine to me, even though I have an iMac which only comes with a 15" screen. Maybe others want something
"better" in such software but my experience with the eBook Reader is that it puts the buyer / reader through a lot of hoops. - I FAILED to get  two ebooks I bought into its 'library' and lost the ones I'd already acquired in the process. I have yet  to force myself to endure
a 3rd round with Adobe Tech Support.  Also note; in this sad saga, I learned that the Adobe eBook Reader is merely
the old "Glassbook" software, distinctly different  from and inferior to the aforementioned Acrobat Reader. (Adobe simply bought the license; that  may explain why the support isn't so great.)

 This proliferation of different readers for ebooks is a natural part of the development cycle in software.  But at present there must be half a dozen competing "readers" and only one or two will eventually become the standard. Meanwhile, both readers (customers!) and writers have to work in this fragmented and multi-cost market environment. This is NOT the way to make ebooks an attractive alternative to hardbound or paperback books. Those of us who paid money for the "losers" in this competition won't be happy, and that's not what we want to see happen to electronic writing and publishing.

I suggest that  we writers, publishers and book buyers take a page, figuratively speaking, from Stephen King. When he set up his website to sell "The Plant" (an 8-part serialized novel), he offered HTML, PDF and PLAIN TEXT downloads. I tried ALL THREE and had little trouble with any of these formats.   I became a satisfied customer and Mr. King earned the better part of $1 million. 

Editor's note: On August 28, a New York Times article repudiated rosy forecasts for the ebook. See "Forecasts for an E-book Era Were, It Seems, Premature" by David D. Kirkpatrick.

  • Special on Critiques
  • First ten pages free, and, for a limited time, all additional pages at 50% off the regular rate of $2.00 per page.  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (September, 2001).
  • Critiques by Sandy Tritt...
  • Unlike most editors, I consider my role to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other writers.
  • Treat you with respect and compassion. All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.
  • Mark your manuscript, correcting grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where appropriate, line-by-line.
  • Highlight areas that are especially well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.
  • Where appropriate, offer suggestions for plot development, character development or other areas that could be strengthened.
  • Return a two-to-four page written analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks, etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.
  • If appropriate, recommend reading or resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.
  • Answer any questions you may have via email.
  • Provide my telephone number for a personal follow-up, if you desire.

For Sandy's success stories, see http://tritt.wirefire.com/Manuscript_Critique.html

Write Sandy at tritt@wvadventures.net

(See Sandy's article in the left column.)

Publishing New Writers,

September, 2001 (no.209)

Editor Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

If [you] can continue to send me more useful information of any sort pertaining to writing it would be greatly appreciated. Your March newsletter has already been of a good deal of help to me. 

Thank you

Dave Fox

Submissions and comments to cookcomm@gte.net. Links are welcome.

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