Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Don't List

As I sat down to contemplate what I wanted to write about this week, I realized that there are so many facets to the writing life, we may never scratch the surface of them all, so why not go a different way? So today, for my regularly scheduled blog post, I am going to talk about something that behooves me.

I am not an editor, nor an agent, but I do critique people and so I think that gives me a bit of a right to mutter when I see writers trying to get out there and be published, but they just won’t do what is asked of them.

For some reason, some writers are elitists.

They think that because they have taken up the pen, the world has given them inalienable rights to the world of publishing. Well, I am here to tell you it ain’t so. The following deserves a disclaimer: these are my opinions, yours may vary.

Here is a short list of the “please don’t’s” I keep thinking as I read other people’s work.

1. Don’t over use the word “that”. If you will try hard, and read the work out loud, you will find most of the time the word “that” does not have to be there. For example, I didn’t just write “If you will try hard and read that work out loud, you will find that most of the time that word does not have to be there.” See the difference?

2. Don’t keep pounding me over the head with information. I would rather you slid it in real quick-like, and quietly too, please. I would rather know that Sarah is a pixie-cute kinda gal, who is a deadly law enforcement officer and takes no stuff from no one. This works this way, but it is not as effective as some others:

Sarah Jones said, “Don’t give me that crap, mister. My hair’s shorter than yours, my height is lower than yours, but my attitude is much worse than yours, so turn around, put your hands behind your back, and shut up before I lose my temper.”

But even better: Sarah Jones knew this one would be trouble. He was twice her size. “Glad I got my hair cut off,” she said as they struggled. “Get your hands behind you, right now.”

Or best, Sarah Jones ran her hand through her spiky short hair and sized this one up. One hundred pounds against three. Not good odds, but she’d handled them before. She pulled her cuffs out and smiled a smile only a hardened criminal would dare breach.

3. And the worst offender of all time, using the word “of” when saying things like, I could of gone to the fair. That is just wrong, y’all.


Marta Stephens said...

And all I kept thinking of as i read this is: "Gads! Is she talking about me?" :()

Excellent points!! Nothing worse than reading a long list of character discriptions. Another is excessive tags. I recently read a book in which the author wrote something like this:

She jumped at the sound of the doorbell then ran to open the door. "John, didn't expect you back so soon," she said.

We already know who's talking. No need for the tag.

Anonymous said...

Great tips! I'm embarrassed on how many "thats" I just deleted! That took a long time and I hope I won't have to go through that again :)

Anonymous said...

Great tips! I'm embarrassed on how many "thats" I just deleted! That took a long time and I hope I won't have to go through that again :)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Excellent list, Kim. And TS - don't be embarrassed. We ALL started somewhere, and I, too, remember the day (oh so long ago...) when SW Vaughn clued me in on the "that" conundrum!!! But don't forget, you can keep it in your dialogue, as "that" sounds natural. LOL.