Say it Once,
Say it Right
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
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
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
for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.
New Writers Poll
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.
Frequency of visits.
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%).
Go Back in Time!...
our new all - immersion Life of Jesus (Part 1) from David C. Cook
III. You'll become a true believer. Visit...
is dedicated to the memory of David C. Cook III.
Visit our sister websites...
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
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
Write Sandy at email@example.com
(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.
Submissions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Links are
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