Friday, March 12, 2010

Writing; eliminating the Ugly Words, Bad Habits and Lazy Writing in revision

Very
It
There
Was
By
To be

Oh, the sins of imprecise or unnecessary adverbs and vague qualifiers, hideous passives and meandering prose.
(Me? guilty of meandering prose?)
Just say no to Adjective Overkill!
Beware the auxiliary verb, we are warned.
Shudder at the idle 'there' constructions.


The carnal error, the 'LY' adverbs, 'very''s evil cousins: extremely, utterly, totally, completely, greatly, slightly, fairly...quite, rather, somewhat...you smell me.

Paula LaRocque reminds us in The Book on Writing that these adverbs are fortifiers; they help us get closer to the perfect word. Adverbs are a bad habit.


Of course she is correct, yet we are all guilty of the lazy word choice and sloppy sentence.

And this is fine...IN THE FIRST DRAFT. I allow myself to be what I call a 'lazy writer' in my first drafts.
(and in my blog posts. Sorry. I'm on a strict time schedule, and blog posting gets exactly 5 minutes. Plus another 5 to find pictures and/or video. The rest of my blog allotted time is spent reading and commenting on YOUR pretty blogs :o)

WRITE FAST, EDIT SLOW, they (rightfully) say.

I allow myself to be a lazy writer during my first draft so that I can narrow my focus not on word choice or sentence structure/grammar, but on getting the story out of me onto 'paper' as fast as I can, getting to know my characters, and finding my beginning, middle, end. I even allow myself drop downs, and various other 'lazy' writing habits, during this first draft, so that I don't have to stop. (Stopping kills momentum, which can be deadly to finishing.)(that said, I often do commit the mortal sin of tweak-editing as I go, so I can stop festering over something I KNOW is wrong)

Edits are where we kill words, murder passages that don't work, slash at our bad habits, fill in plot holes. We must be ruthless. Every word must be precise, perfect, and work to move the story forward. During revisions I keep a keen look-out for the lazy intensifier adverbs that fortify the less-than-right word (ex: very small = tiny) and repair my word choices. If "happy" is not happy enough, we don't use the vague and wordy 'very happy' or 'extremely happy'. 'Ecstatic' would be a precise choice.

This editing must be meticulous. Yes, it is time consuming, but I want to hand over as clean a manuscript to my beta reader(s) as I am able.


Nothing makes me stop reading a book faster than lazy writing. How did it get past the writer, beta, agent, editor? Lazy.
If this basic skill set is getting overlooked, I don't want to find out how the more complicated writing devices and plot holes are [not] handled, so I bail early on.

Hey, I'm a lazy girl sometimes. But a professional writer works hard on their craft and doesn't allow a sloppy MS out of their hands. This is the one part of writing that for sure CAN be taught/learned.

Happy Weekend!
Write on,
Lola

21 comments:

roxy said...

There's a very, very good reason for me using all these words in the lame construction of this long, drawn-out sentence that lacks all reason for even being in my really stupid-sounding comment. I AM LAZY! I love your "if they can't be bothered, neither can I" attitude. Despite that ugly opening above, I totally agree with you. Have an awesome weekend!

sarahjayne smythe said...

Great post. I've worked on this philosophy of slashing words that waste space without bringing anything to the party for years now. I'm not certain just how successful I've been.

And I am crazy in love with your 'if they can't be bothered, neither can I' attitude, too. Great minds and all that. :)

Have a great weekend.

Lisa said...

A great way to push me to go over it again before handing it off to beta readers. Ruthless editing. Yes.

Piedmont Writer said...

Fan-Tas-Tic Post! Write on!!

Jemi Fraser said...

Write fast - edit slow. I like that!

I do a whole round of edits of just verbs/adverbs. It's easier to see them that way - at least for me.

Glad to have "met" you today, Lola :)

B. Miller said...

Great points. Have you read "Elements of Style"? I highly recommend.

Looking forward to the first draft being complete so I can go back and edit the crap out of the MS (literally and figuratively).

Have a great weekend!

Shelley Sly said...

Awesome post. I'm with you -- kill those adverbs!

I use them in blog posts and emails and such, but in my manuscripts, I slash 'em out again and again when editing. Even when I think I've toned it down, I still find more to kill. But it's kind of fun crossing out all those extra words...

Niki said...

Yay another helpful post :o)

Susan Fields said...

I know just what you mean with the lazy first draft and then the ruthless editing. I give myself permission to write whatever happens to fall out of my head on the first draft. If I stopped to make it sound nice, I'd never get it done. I consider them two very separate processes. Great post!

Terresa said...

Good stuff, true that. ;)

Theresa Milstein said...

I totally (ha, adverb) agree - write fast, edit slow. I'm a big fan of adverbs, so each chop hurts a little bit. Oh, and vague qualifiers - bane of my existence. We must be vigilant!

jozien said...

Hi Lola, i came here from Technobabe. i will be back; to learn how to properly write and to lay in my childhood weeping willow tree. And on rainy days, i like to say, but i hope for me those, like you describe, are few and far between.

Kazzy said...

Very interesting stuff to think about. I love the "write fast, edit slow" principle. I need to remember that one.

TechnoBabe said...

Write it all down so you get the story written and then go back and edit. I am not a writer, I am a reader, but I know you are correct. Sounds like you are getting somewhere in you writing right now. Good for you.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Oh so true!!! It took me 7 weeks to write AETERNUS and 8 months to revise. Ha! What long process, but hopefully worth it. I've replaced so many adverbs...chop chop chop.

Great post, m'dear. You are so right. If writing is your profession, then by all that is mighty, make it count. Well said, Lola.

Maggie May said...

aw
i like adverbs ! :)

JUST ME said...

I can't ask myself for perfection, but I can request that I remember how to use a semicolon.

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

You said it! I feel like I should print this out and tape it to the wall over my desk so I have a clear and concise roadmap for revisions. But! First I have to get the draft done and momentum is the key. Too bad life seems to be having its way with me these days!

E. Elle said...

Great post!

I currently am not in possession of my first novel for personal reasons so I can't get back on the editing track just yet. But you definitely brought some things to light for me and I'm looking forward to getting back to work on it, when I can. :)

Lola Sharp said...

Have I mentioned lately that I really, totally, massively think that my writer friends (YOU) are full of the awesome?

Lindsay said...

Love this post!! My writing groups are always getting on me for using adverbs....

Great quote, "Write fast, edit slow..." speaking of which I should get back to my editing....

Will you post some of your novel to share with us?

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Lola Sharp
My name is Lola. (I'm not a showgirl) Yes, L-O-L-A Lola. It's the least of my worries. Let's move on, shall we? This blog is mostly about my misadventures on the journey to publication and beyond. My passion for lush prose, quirky characters, art, music, literature, performing arts and anything creative will be a major theme here. This journey of mine will not always be pretty. Much like rubbernecking a train wreck, I know sometimes you just can't help but look at the carnage that is often my life. So strap on your neck brace, helmet and 5-point harness and come along for the ride! Licentia poetica.
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