A quick thank you to Lara Shiffbauer for the Fabulous Blog Ribbon. For this award you need to list 5 favorites of books, things you love & hate, and fabulous moments. Along with tagging 5 others. I’m gonna be lazy here and skip out because things are hectic around here, so please forgive me. But thank you Lara.
Back to Sloppy Writing.
Another unnecessary word I’ve found is around. Sometimes I can take it out because of redundancy, other times because it’s not needed.
Here are my examples from an old version of FROSTY.
-The snow swirled around and my wet hair lashed at my face.
(Well yeah, swirl means it’s going around—this is redundant.)
-I looked around the room, then towards the fireplace, the orange and blue flames danced around.
(Note I used it twice. First one okay. Second one redundant—danced means moving around.)
-Brooke spun around on her heels.
(Again, spun around is redundant.)
-That I liked being moved around from home to home.
(I can take the around out and it doesn’t change the meaning at all.)
-They want to introduce me around.
(Removing around doesn’t change the meaning.)
So watch out for your arounds and get rid of the unnecessary and redundant ones.
Another word I overused was probably. Probably isn’t a bad word. And I wasn’t using it wrong. I just didn’t need it.
I went into FROSTY recently and did a search. I found 72 probablys. So it’s not on par with my overuse of just or that, but writing experts say every words counts. And if I don’t need that probably, I should take it out.
Here are a few examples.
-I had probably broken most of her rules during my time with her.
(Sydney did break most of those rules, so why use probably?)
-She’d probably make fun of them, all hoity-toity, which is what she called people who thought they were better than us.
(Sydney knows darn well her mother would make fun of the Claytons. I don’t need the probably.)
-Maybe, but I’ll probably die from your driving long before smoking kills me.
(Sydney’s being snarky here, the probably lessens the impact.)
-Corbin’s all-brick house was monstrous—probably three times the size of Brooke’s.
(We know she’s guessing; she doesn’t have the floor plans and square footage, so no need for probably.)
After I deleted all my unnecessary probablys, I had 39. Not a huge change, but if I want to make every word count, this is a good word to start with.
Jenny Morris from Falling For Fiction interviewed me on Friday. It was my first blog interview, and I was impressed with the research Jenny did to prepare her questions.
So thank you, Jenny. It was a lot of fun.
No, these aren’t the stupid little clichés that show up in your writing. These are the ones that appear in your plot or your characters. I just got hit in the head with mine. I’ve been learning so much these last six months, but I guess something I kinda ignored was the clichés, because I have two big ones in Frosty.
Clichés don’t bother me as a reader, but apparently, they are a big turn off to agents. So we as writers are NOT supposed to use them. Although some writers argue that almost everything is becoming cliché these days. But that is an argument for another day.
So what clichés did I use in FROSTY?
Corbin is hot. Rich. Captain of the basketball team.
Brooke is beautiful, a cheerleader dating the captain of the basketball team, and although she ISN’T a mean girl, she does a few not-so-nice things to her foster sister.
After I realized this, my question became, do I fix/change them?
With Corbin: no. He has one big thing going against him, that contradicts what you would expect out of a kid like that. So I left his. Besides, it’d make changing major parts of the story—which I didn’t want to do.
With Brooke: yes. I got rid of the cheerleader part because it wasn’t really an important detail for the story. Only took me 10 minutes delete all the cheerleader references. I had to adjust one minor scene, but it didn’t really affect things much.
But now that I know about this cliché issue, I’ll take a harder look at my other manuscripts and make sure I don’t fall in the same trap. I want my characters to be original, so why not switch things up a bit.
Do you worry about clichés in your story?
Do they bother you as a reader? If so, which do you hate the worst?
Here is another word I sometimes over use or misuse: Almost. My examples are from an early version of FROSTY.
-I almost thought I should be a travel writer, except that I didn’t like to write.
(She almost thought? She either did or didn’t. How do you almost think?)
-No wonder she took almost an hour to get ready.
(Really? Why don’t I say just an hour? Or forty-five minutes if I want it to be less. But if it’s fifty, might as well round up. Let’s make this easy and just go with an hour.)
-One day you’re talking to me and I almost think we’re friends.
(Again with the almost thinking.)
-I smacked him in the middle of his back and he stood up, his face almost purple.
(Almost purple? What does that mean? Pearly, mardi gras, blue violet, fuchsia, plum, violet, wisteria… these are all Crayola color crayon names by the way. Why don’t I just say purple, or better yet, one of these other fun colors?)
-I almost did it that night when Brooke walked in on us and I felt like crap that it almost happened.
(Okay-this one isn’t so bad, except that I use it twice in the same sentence.)
So watch out for your almosts because sometimes they are not necessary and sometimes they just don’t make sense.
Here are a few more sentences that contain an unnecessary word.
-I almost thought I should be a travel writer, except that I didn’t like to write.
-I didn’t tell her I thought it looked like fun.
-Those first two weeks, I thought she kept waiting for me to break down.
-The first time she had two questions but took the whole hour discussing the answer because she thought it was important.
Thought is the repeat offender.
FROSTY is written in first person, and Sydney is the narrator. In the above examples, either she is analyzing something another person has said or done, or she’s speaking about herself. Either way, I don’t need to use thought because we know Sydney is doing the thinking.
-I should be a travel writer, except that I didn’t like to write.
-I didn’t tell her it looked like fun.
-Those first two weeks she kept waiting for me to break down.
-The first time she had two questions but took the whole hour discussing the answer because it was important.
I deleted nine words from those four sentences. There are many legitimate places to use thought, but these ones could all go. So watch out for your thoughts.
Check out the sentences below for another word I overuse.
-There were so many things now that fell into place.
-I knew she had started smoking crack by the time I was eight, because there were a few times I remembered her being high.
-Brooke, it’s freezing out there.
- In one little handful of snow, there were hundreds of snowflakes.
The repeat offender is there. Writing experts discourage using there at the beginning of a sentence. Most of the time you can find a better, more descriptive way to write the sentence. Luckily, I wasn’t so bad at that, but I unnecessarily use it other places.
If I rewrote those above sentences, this is how I’d do it.
-So many things now fell into place.
-I knew she had started smoking crack by the time I was eight, because I remembered her being high a few times.
-Brooke, it’s freezing outside.
-One little handful of snow held hundreds of snowflakes.
Yeah, only nine words deleted, but it’s much cleaner.
So watch out for your unnecessary theres.
May 17th was the start of the second round of The Writers Voice contest hosted by Krista, Cupid, Monica, and Brenda. TWV had 200 entries and I figured myself lucky just to get in. But then Cupid chose me to be on her team of ten + one alternate. What an honor.
So this last week, we got a look at all our teammates queries and first pages. We got comments, then revised. Then comments. Then revised. (Some of us at least.) With any critique, you don’t agree with everything, but I made a lot of great changes from their comments and really appreciated the help.
Now I’m sure that everyone believes they have the best team, but I just wanted to show you why we really are the best. And I apologize because I won’t be able to do these stories justice, so make sure to go to Cupid’s site to read their query and first page yourself. (Keep in mind I haven’t read any of these, I’m just pulling my description together from what I’ve read of their query.)
Dahlia with Behind the Scenes, a contemporary young adult novel about a girl who works for her celebrity best friend. But when the publicists decide they want the celebrity friend to “date” her co-star, the guy the girl’s just begun seeing, she needs to decide what means more: her best friend, her future and her shot at love.
Favorite line: She’d had an audition that morning for a teen dramedy show, and despite having been in plenty of movies, she was more desperate to land the role of Ditz #3 on Daylight Falls than she’d been to play Brad-freakin’-Pitt’s stepdaughter three years ago.
Melanie with Dazed and Knights, a young adult romance novel where a girl goes back in time and has to deal with a spoiled princess, a handsy lord and no toilets! But of course there’s a knight in shining armour and she must decided if she wants to stay or try return home.
Favorite lines: Staring at the back of his head, I imagined lightning bolts shooting from my eyes and frying that perfect blond hair. I could almost hear the sizzle.
Ann with Supertastic ScienceGirls, a middle grade novel about a girl who discovers her parents are involved in this super secret experiment and she ends up in danger from the people who want to stop it. They attempt to kidnap her, but she and her Scientastic SuperGirls club won’t let that happen.
Favorite line: We’ve found ourselves a sub loonier than the lady who walked on tiptoes and only talked about leprechauns.
LeighAnn with One, a young adult sci-fi novel about a girl who doesn’t fit in. She has one power, whereas everybody else has either two powers OR none. But when she discovers a boy, a one, they realize together they have both powers. Except that somebody doesn’t want to see that happen and kidnaps the boy. But rescuing him might be the end to her chance to develop her two powers and she must decide what to do.
Favorite lines: I’m a One – a half-superpowered freak. It’s the same sad story for all of us.
Kelsey with But Not for Me, a contemporary young adult novel with a girl who is constantly bullied and teased. She’s tremendously overweight, is labeled as a special ed kid, and just got a new step-sister who’s making her life hell. When she gets a chance to shine, but is pushed back down by her fellow classmates, she must decide if she will take charge of her life or remain the girl everyone thinks she is.
Favorite lines: I hate buttoning my jeans. I would rather skip straight to the inevitable muumuu phase of my life than try to encapsulate my size 20 ass into this denim prison ever again.
Derek with Stealing the Sun, a sci fi novel about a notorious space pirate who is not only trying to escape from his past, but from the people who want him dead.
Favorite line: Yep, Trig thought, he was pretty well nerfed.
Amy Rose with Burnout, a contemporary young adult novel about a drag-racing girl, her deceitful ex-best friend, and the boy the girl is falling for. And it all takes place in the underground world of illegal street racing.
Favorite lines: Hello, Universe. Callie White here, future professional drag racer extraordinaire. 10.5 seconds is what I need. 10.5 is what I’ll get. Just try and stop me. I dare you.
MarcyKate with Monstrous, a fantasy young adult novel where the murdered girl is brought back to life by her father, except she looks like a monster. As she’s trying to save innocents from being murdered, she’s falling for a boy who hasn’t seen her hideous self, and she’s trying to figure out who the real monster is: her father, the wizard who murdered her, or herself.
Favorite line: When I opened my eyes, the colors of the world swarmed me, filling up all space with hues and objects for which I had no name.
Becky with Here Comes the Sun, a contemporary young adult novel about an often-teased girl who gets to go to England on a school trip. She meets a boy, a Beetles fanatic, and hopefully he will help her learn to break free from her shell and that life doesn’t always suck.
Favorite line: So here I am, flying so damn high in the sky that Chicago looks like Lego City, crossing my legs so tight that they are literally tingling from the pressure.
Cortney with Phobic, a young adult horror novel where the main character realizes that the house she is living in is alive and that she is physically connected to it. And if she doesn’t figure out the truth behind the house, she may just permanently become a part of it.
Favorite lines: When I was six years old I found the man my mother murdered stuffed under a trap door in our kitchen. The smell gave him away.
And here’s my Frosty.
And thank you once again to our fearless leader, Cupid! Not only has she helped with our query and first page, but she critiqued some additional pages too. I can’t thank her enough!
So go check out all the entries to see some great stories. Sunday is the last day to leave comments, then Monday the agents will stop by.
Quick note: Thank you to Kelley Lynn for choosing me as one of her winners of the Oh Those High School Dances Blog Hop. I won best dressed, thanks to my metallic royal blue lamae dress. Check out her site for the other winners. For my prize, I got a book and I picked HUSHED by Kelley York. So thank you to Kelley Lynn.
Now back to Sloppy Writing.
Another little word that pops up too often in my writing is shown in the examples below from my early FROSTY manuscript.
-It was all Mom could afford, but I’d loved our mini vacations and we always had fun.
-I hated how girls always had to go to the bathroom in teams, and this was the same thing.
-Buy something fun instead of those stupid t-shirts you always wear.
That word would be always. I just don’t need it. I can take the three always out of the above sentences and it doesn’t alter them one bit. An easy fix: DELETE.
I didn’t do a word count, because so many of those always are necessary, but trust me; I got rid of many of them. So make sure your always are always necessary.
Just a quick note. I was lucky to be one of the 200 entrants in The Writer’s Voice competiton hosted by to Krista, Cupid, Monica, and Brenda. This is my entry for FROSTY. The four ladies above picked 10 entries each, that they want to work with to prepare queries and first pages for the agents viewing round.
I was stunned when Cupid invited me to be on her team. I still feel like I should go back to my comments section to see if it was real. (It appears so because the comment is still there.) She already gave me a suggestion too… to bump up my word count to about 55,000. I’ve got about 1800 down, 1200 to go.
One cool thing is that I already “kinda” know a few people on my team, either because I follow their blogs or because I’ve seen their query other places too and it seems like a fun group. The 2nd part of the competition is just starting and already I’m addicted to following the Twitter feed. Check out #thewritersvoice to see all the fun. Each team has their own hashtag too.
See here for Team Cupid.
* * * * *
Now to Sloppy Writing.
Sometimes (try most of the time), we have unnecessary words in our writing—or at least I do. Another example of what I overuse is a little.
Here are three examples from FROSTY and remember, this is an early draft.
-I felt a little weird because Lana was serving us.
(Does it matter if she was weirded out a little or a lot? No.)
-Brooke clinked my glass and gave me a little eye roll.
(Is there that big of difference between a big eye roll and a little eye roll? Not much in this case.)
-Her makeup was nice and not over done—that surprised me a little.
(Again, does the level of surprise matter here? No.)
In my early version of FROSTY, I had 56 a littles.
Uffda. Yes, I’m half Norwegian, so I can say that. That 56 x 2 words = 112 possible unnecessary words. No, it’s not much if they were the only ones, but obviously, they were not, and those little buggers add up.
Now I am down to 7 a littles in FROSTY and I’m gonna keep them all. Much more reasonable. So check out your a littles to see if you really need them.
The Writer’s Voice Entry #97
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Word Count: 52,000 words
Sometimes you have to freeze everyone out to avoid getting burned.
Sydney’s had seven foster families in seven years. Almost everybody in her life has let her down, including her crack addicted mother. Sydney refuses to get close to anyone, pushing away those who attempt to befriend her. Now she is moving on to her next family, the Claytons. She knows immediately that she won’t fit in with their extravagant life and their spoiled daughter Brooke.
Sydney resents the snobby kids at her new school, especially Brooke’s boyfriend Corbin. Sydney thinks Corbin is just like all the other overprivileged kids; but he’s hot and she can’t help being attracted to him, even as she hates him. When Sydney finds Brooke and another girl naked on the floor, she learns that Corbin is helping keep their secret in exchange for Brooke’s help. Sydney’s frozen exterior begins to thaw when Corbin admits he can hardly read or write—the reason why Brooke is helping him.
Corbin likes Sydney, but Brooke refuses to let him go because she is terrified that everyone will discover she’s gay. But even if Brooke breaks up with Corbin, Sydney doubts it will ever work with him. And really… if her own mom had given up on life, had given up on Sydney, how could anyone else ever truly love her?
My ears tingled from the biting wind and swirling snow, but I stayed outside to smoke. The caseworker thought I was nuts, but I liked the cold. It numbed me… relaxed me. Besides, I couldn’t smoke inside—those were the rules.
After finishing a second cigarette, my nerves were calm. Jim pulled up in a dark Mercedes. Cool—none of my former foster families were wealthy. I met him and Lana a week ago, but not their daughter Brooke. This time the caseworker suggested placing me in a foster family with a teenage girl. As if me and Brooke would be close friends, and my senior year would be the best ever. I was smart enough to know that would never happen. My goal was to get through these last six months with the Claytons, and I’d be on my own.
The light spilled out of Jim’s car, and he opened his mouth to say something. Instead, he shook his head and laid his hand on my shoulder, guiding me inside.
“Good evening, Sydney,” he said once we reached the door.
Um, not really, Jim. Kind of crappy outside. Didn’t you notice the blizzard?
We sat down to do some paperwork, and Jim wrinkled up his nose. He must not be a smoker. I checked out the bare gray room as the caseworker shuffled through a stack of papers. Why did these meetings always take place in dark and dreary rooms? Didn’t they have enough light bulbs around here?