Monday, June 27, 2011

Cut the "ly" and "then"...

In March, I attended the LDStorymakers Writing Conference in Salt Lake City. To say it was wonderful doesn't give the conference enough credit. It was more than wonderful. For the first time in my writing life, I experienced a taste of the business and learned that I'm not alone in this endeavor.

When I registered for the conference, I signed up for a "writers bootcamp". I'm grateful that I did. Some of the most powerful feedback I've received to date came from that bootcamp.

I never took a writing class in college. I don't have an advance degree in English literature. I didn't spent years in a writing program, learning the craft and perfecting my skills with careful planning for a future career in publishing. I studied business. I learned how to run a successful company, and how to manage people. That puts me at a huge disadvantage as a writer, I know that. All I began with was a story and a keyboard.

Now that I've finished its sequel, I've had some time to go back and polish On Fallen Wings, based on the feedback from the bootcamp. I'm getting it ready to send out again, to brave the waters of the querying world, and discover if anyone wants to represent my novel. Step one: I added a few scenes. Nothing major, just tiny little scenes to fill plot holes here and there. That part is easy. I can write. Step two: Cut the unnecessary adverbs, the "ly" words.

Wow! I never realized I had so many adverbs. When all was said and done, I trimmed 600 useless adverbs from my manuscript. 600! That's only about 2 per page, but it blew my mind when I saw the word count once I finished. I read once that English teachers lover adverbs, but readers don't. I agree with the saying. When I reread some of the passages, after cutting, the story was cleaner. Cutting the adverbs also had a side effect. When I couldn't elaborate on an action with some silly little "ly" word, I had to find a better verb, a stronger verb. My writing improved one tiny notch. Yay!

Step three: I use "then" and "and then" a lot. I blame Microsoft Word for this. During my earlier edits, every time I used "and" or "then", my writing program would underline the words with those evil little red lines and tell me I was wrong. Hey, I'm new to this. If the computer tells me its wrong, I must be wrong, right? Wrong. All those "thens" and "and thens" cluttered up the pages and kept the flow of the story looking like instructions for building a treehouse. I cut them when they weren't needed. The result was another 400 words shaved.

So, now I have a leaner, more polished book, one that's ready for another review before I send it off to agents. I'm learning. It's a real life degree in editing. I'm grateful for feedback, and am excited about the direction my books are taking me. I promised before that I intend to present the world with the best writing I have to offer. When all is said and done, that's what you'll be getting.


  1. Those were great reminders; I always have to watch for both in my own writing. BTW, I loved the LDS Storymakers conference too.

  2. My big word is "that." She said that she was at the store. She said she was at the store. The second sentence loses no meaning from the first. THAT was my first big editing wake up. I am not so much on the adverbs, but I had a terrible habit of over using adverbial phrases (especially those THAT modify the verb "said").

    I am very glad to hear that your writing is cleaner. Good luck on the next round of queries.

  3. It's amazing how much cleaner our work becomes by removing those silly unneeded words. Good for you and keep going! (By the way, I'm also guilty of the 'and then' in my early drafts.)

  4. Thanks for your comments. It's amazing how a few small words can make such a huge difference to a large manuscript. One thing I LOVE about interacting with other writers, is how helpful you all are. Your advice and feedback keeps me going!


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