Monday, July 6, 2009

Useless Words

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm in the process of attempting to edit my manuscript from 140,000 + (and it's a BIG +) words down to a more acceptable 110,000 words (maybe 115,000). I received some great suggestions on little things I can do to begin the process such as (thanks Robyn) eliminating such words as just, that, and was.

Do you have any idea how many times I used the word that? OMG! I mean, I'd mention this, that, or the other, or that night, that man, that thing . . . and that, that, that, that, that, and dang it, that again!

I have decided that (OMG, see how easy it is to use the word) the word that, for the most part, is a useless word. Yes, useless. I don't need to use that as much as I do. I mean, check this out . . .

Jared knew that Wes was not the most reliable of people.

Now, check this out . . .

Jared knew Wes was not the most reliable of people.

That is totally useless, not needed, and thus, it disappeared from the sentence, and countless more (trust me on (big grin and wink) that!) as I began the elimination of words revision process yesterday!

I also learned, that many other words can more readily replace that - such as who, which, the, and so many more. It's all about context.

Now, I didn't eliminate every instance of that because sometimes, the word seemed to fit. In any case where it did not, I took out the word. Delete! Delete! Delete! Delete!

I'm halfway through the manuscript with the that search right now. Sigh! I hope

Now, here's my question for the day - Contractions or no contractions? No, I'm not in labor, though I sometimes equate writing with labor. I'm just saying. Or perhaps my question should be - did not versus didn't? I eliminated quite a few words yesterday by creating contractions!

I read somewhere that a writer should write out the contractions, i.e., use could not instead of couldn't. So, that's what I did. Then, a reader made a comment that could not sounded to formal, and I should use couldn't. Geesh! Yes, as I went through yesterday, I created contractions left and right. Octomom beware! Do you use contractions in your writing? If so, why? If not, why?

Lastly - I want to thank everyone else who left a comment here. Your comments/advice have really helped. I'd love to do a link to every single one of you, but I seriously don't have the time this morning. So, newbies to this blog, check out the post and the comments, click on the names, and check out the blogs of the commenters. They're great sources of information!



Marybeth Poppins said...

that's, just's and had's are easy to weed out! OOOOHHHH and the word "like"! Glad your editing is going well :)

Tess said...

edit+find+delete = a perfect writerly tool. We all have those terrible, overused words. Mine include had, just, some and turned. I let them go in the first draft and then

edit+find+delete them out in rewrites.

sounds like you're really making progress...good work!

Robyn Campbell said...

Scott, thanks for linking to my blog. My favorite word is 'was'. Evidently, I looove that word. Who knew? Good luck with taking out those extra filler words. BTW, your sentence is much stronger without THAT word. :)

I used contractions in my novel, because I tried to show the way people talk from the south. We use contractions all the time. In my new WIP, I may not use them as much. Haven't gotten that far yet. :)

Rebecca Knight said...

*That* sounds like you're making awesome progress! You rock, Scott!

Those long search-and-delete missions are grueling, but absolutely worth it.

Davin Malasarn said...

Nice work, Scott! I think contractions do make writing feel less formal. So, then, your major decision is whether or not you want that formality. In some of my stories, I do like the writing to sound more formal. Usually if I'm writing from a character's point of view, I use contractions.

Scott said...

Thanks for all your comments about 'that' revision process I'm going through. ; )

Marybeth - great, another word to begin searching through the document for (yes, ended w/preposition!). More work ahead. : )

Tess - I'm pretty careful with 'had' unless I'm having a character think about something that happened, then it's okay! Oh, and now I have to search for 'some'!

Robyn - you're welcome. I wish I had time to do that (big wink) linky-dink thing with all the commenters, but I didn't this morning. Since I started with the words you provided, you were the lucky one to get a linky-dink!

Rebecca - grueling barely begins to cover the process. I have a goal to finish this revise stage by mid-August at the latest.

Davin - since I'm not writing the next, great literary masterpiece, I definitely think less formality is needed. I just think it was 'follow one of those rule things' like Lady Glamis mentioned in her post this morning. At some point in this revise stage, I'll go back through and create contractions, and eliminate some words in the process. : )


ElanaJ said...

Man, Scott, I hate cutting. Well, actually I don't, but it's really hard when you have a complete story and you have to sit down and cut a bunch of that out. Ha! I used "that". That's a good place to start, but really with that many words, you probably have to delete entire I did. A lot of them. Sometimes whole chapters had to go.

I use contractions because teens don't say, "I am going to bed now, dear mother." LOL. Good luck with revisions! You'll do great!

Scott said...

Elana - in the slow process of deleting a single word and creating contractions, I have tightened up some areas. More tightening will occur, as will deleting of parts of scenes, not to mention removing lyrics in all instances but one. In the other instance, I'll do what I have to do to keep those in the story. Those lyrics are so integral it's not even funny!

Icy Roses said...

I only don't use contractions in formal papers and essays for school. Novels? It sounds abnormal if you don't, because nobody goes around refusing to use contractions.

My first draft was full of "that" too! Good luck with cutting the fat!