Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Ing is the Thing

So... I admit I miss things when I'm editing. I'd like to say it's because my stories engage my mind so thoroughly (which is of course absolutely true!) But more likely my brain happily overlooks areas which will cause further work. Lazy Brain.

And so I resort to my usual method: trick myself.

This time I'm trying the "find" function (ctrl+f in wordprocessing) to identify passive verb constructions.  Just type in your search word and select "highlight all."  Just scan the page for highlights and make a decision to keep or slash.

I started with "ing." 
So much friendlier than the
dreaded red pen.
(image by Colin Brough via
This search returned "cringed" and "boring" - hey, those ings are just fine. 
Then I spotted "was running." Uh-oh! Delete. Replace with ran or jogged or sprinted or whatever the situation calls for. (Not ran, no I'm still on an adverb diet)

You can also search for: was, had, has, is, are, am.  (Note to apostrophacators - those who like contractions- you'll need to search for 'm, 's, 're, and 'd  too.)

Some of those results might not identify passive constructions, but just weak verbs.  "Is" can be replaced with something better, especially in the economy-of-words-critical picture book form. 

I found this method easy and rewarding- less like revising, and more like playing a find the hidden pictures game in Highlights!

Does anyone else have any cheats and tricks to find revision needs?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Embarrassing Revisions

I mentioned last week how my critiques and edits had been stacking up to an unmanageable pile.

So with ReViMo as incentive I got busy.

But things got embarrassing fast.  And not in an underwear showing while butt-in-chair way.  Worse. I found this in one of my critiqued pieces:

He crept quietly into the house.   

Seriously? I wrote crept quietly? What the heck was I thinking?  I wanted to ensure the reader didn't think he was creeping noisily? 

It gets worse. 

I deleted the word quietly SIX times in one 1200 word short story.  If you add in other deletions of "quickly," "slowly," "apologetically"-- 1% of the story was adverbs. The embarrassment of walking around with an atomic wedgie would be less than what I felt that first day.

"If they don't stop feeding us corn, we should stampede
sometime tomorrow."
(image by sista via
There's more.

Began stampeding
Started scanning
Was staring

Weak verb constructions splashed all over the pages. How would cows start stampeding? Doesn't that obliterate the definition of the stampede? Were they discussing a plan to stampede in Moo-vernacular? Nope. Then, why did I write that? Do I have a deep-rooted fear of stampedes, so I wanted to take it slowly? I DON'T KNOW.

I know this has turned into a bad reality show you can't stop watching even though you want to avert your eyes. But it goes on.


Dreadful. Maybe when I wrote these sentences, the ideas were coming so fast I couldn't think of better ways to show what was happening. I could give myself that excuse. But I won't.

Once again I apologize to my critique partners. I didn't realize I was making you work so hard. If you are now suffering from strikethrough-itis, I promise to help anyway I can.  

I don't know why these problems are so easy to find during critiques and impossible to identify in my own stories. But I hope awareness of the problem I’m facing will help me to correct this awkward situation.

Of course, it would make me feel better if you would admit to your writing problems in the comments. Happy revising!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Word of the Year

Lots of writers are posting their words for the year.  Looking at my January Action Plan, it's pretty clear what my word of the year is.


Confession to my critique groups: I still haven't done the revisions on the last, oh, 12 stories you've critiqued.  Yep, my bad.  This fall I have been struggling just to get manuscripts ready for critique each month. This makes me feel very guilty. If I were a dog, I'd have my tail between my legs.  The Emotion Thesaurus tells me people show guilt by blushing, sweating and staring down at my feet. (Handy book, that is!)

And I value the critique so much, that it's like I was given a bag of gold, but haven't molded into rings yet. Just a big bag of shiny metal sitting in my closet patiently waiting to be honed into beauty. And that's the kind of thing that attracts pirates, and I'm so not in the mood for a pirate attack. 
Ah yes, a good pair of old scissors.
Just perfect to cut all those adjectives.
(image by asifthebest via

So I needed to get my butt in my writing chair, but how? Well, I had to trick myself, which isn't that hard since I'm quite gullible.

First I signed up for Shannon Abercrombie's Start the Year Off Write.  Sunday Julie Hedlund kicked it off by informing us we needed to write a first paragraph to one of our PB ideas.  

How dare she? I thought. How dare she wake me out of my holiday coma to actually write?

So, I plopped in my chair like a snotty sophomore whose Mom said she couldn't watch Teen Wolf until her homework was done.  I may have even been loudly popping Hubba Bubba bubbles. It took, like, forever to pick out an idea and to coax my fingers to move. But then 250 words later, I had to apologize under my breath to Julie for being such a brat. J Just. Writing. Anything. Feels. Awesome!

January 12th starts Meg Miller's ReViMo which features 7 days of picture book revision. It's just what I need to really make some head way through my critique pile. 

Do you have any writing resolutions this year?
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