May 16, 2006


I suffer from verbosity. Here’s an ironic example, an actual line from Confessions:

She tried to prune her words to a bare minimum–the sooner he tired of her dull company, the sooner she could escape the disturbing intensity of his eyes.

Hello!?! “She tried to prune her words to a bare minimum,” needs serious trimming. Why not just say, “she pruned her words.” Ah, the simplicity.

I have so many ticks. I love to write things like, “she felt his hands begin stroking her thighs,” instead of “his hands stroked her thighs,” and then there is the dreaded “seemed.”

All the years of self-denial, all the elaborate barriers she had constructed to contain her emotions, suddenly seemed like flimsy paper creations that one strong breeze could blow away forever.

All the “she felt” and “she seemed” and “as if’s” have got to go. Luckily, I have two amazing critique partners with big sharp shears who aren’t afraid to go “snip snip.” (I pictured Martyn Jacques from the Tiger Lillie’s singing those last two words–love him!)

But the hacking and slashing is almost finished and I’m sending it off today or tomorrow. So cross your fingers for me–soon I’ll have feedback on Confessions from industry professionals.



4 thoughts on “Pruning”

  1. Oh, man, I have such a problem with overwriting — not just at the sentence level, but on a story level. (Which is why it’s good you have two CPs, cause I probably won’t ever catch that part of yours 😀 )

    For me, it’s comma splices, out-of-control facial expressions (people are always smiling and grinning like idiots…oh! and looking and gazing) and “as if”s all over the place.

    Good luck on the submittal!

  2. Hi, my name is Lynda and I’m an over-writer.

    My characters do lots of seeming, being, and prefer gerunds to the simple past tense. Luckily I had a writing teacher years ago who instilled in me the fear of turning and looking, gazing, furrowed brows, and other tricks of the eyes.

    And I’m glad your kitty is going to China with you and I can’t wait to read more about your adventures there (I hope you will be writing about them here).

  3. Over-Writers Anonymous. I desperately need it. Right before I sent the ms winging over the net, I took “The Elements of Style” off the shelf and flipped through it. Bad idea.

    “Thrust. This showy noun, suggestive of power, hinting of sex, is the darling of executives, politicos, and speechwriters. Use it sparingly.”

    Alas, I would add “romance writers” to that shameful list. But at least I “saved it for a specific application,” eh, Mr. Strunk?

  4. Ah, well. It could be a lot worse. Yesterday at work my neighbor called out over the cubicle divider, “Is ‘bypassable’ an okay word?”

    “Sure, why not?” I said. (I figured for whatever he might be writing, it didn’t have to be a good word, just a word.)

    “The computer dictionary doesn’t like it. It suggests ‘by passable.'”

    “That’s absurd.”

    “Or else ‘bypass able.'”


    “How about ‘non-bypassable’?”

    “Well, it’s not objectionable, except on aesthetic grounds . . .”

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