Monday, 19 November 2012

A is for Alcoholic. I just cut the A word from the book to reduce the word count...

I might even have to use the word ‘alcoholic’; a word that is hated by us Irish. Instead we have culturally honoured euphemisms; such as ‘he likes to get merry’.

You'll have to read the book, Love for Beginners to see which character speaks-to-herself in the sentence above...

 The character in Love for Beginners who says that Irish people are reluctant to use the word, 'alcoholic', might have a point, but  the word 'alcoholic' has extremely serious connotations and ought not to be used justly as opposed to lightly.  But maybe one character in Love for Beginners was rightly given the diagnosis of alcoholism.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

In love with the verbs 'try' and 'start'. Are you too fond of some words, and using them too much?

When I told Shirley Stewart, a seasoned literary agent and a lovely lady, that in the early days, I sent a 128,000 draft of the book to publishers, Shirley exclaimed, 'that was a weapon of mass destruction!'

After writing about how you can make your book thinner, I'm following my own advice and taking out each and every unnecessary word. And I'm getting stricter! Every word that does not earn its keep is fired from the job. This eye-exhausting exercise is the project known as Draft 6 of Love for Beginners. For the greater good of my book, I must sacrifice some words that I love. Reading over and over the paragraphs, the words 'try' and 'starts' appear much too often. Here is one picture of my editing-in-action. I changed, 'David starts whimpering' to 'David whimpers'.

If you are writing a narrative in the present tense - it is tempting to overuse some verbs for the sake of showing when a specific take place.  For example, you might write, 'Laura starts to weep', and you might have employed 'starts' to demonstrate that she had not been crying until that moment. 'Laura weeps' is half the word count of 'Laura starts to weep', but you might fret that your readers think Laura weeps nonstop.  And, you might use the word 'tries' to show that a do something but fails.  'James tries to offer Laura a napkin from McDonald's to dry her eyes, but she refuses'. You can rewrite that as, 'James offers Laura a napkin from McDonald's'.   Then you might comment that 'James starts to wonders if he had offered Laura a soft Kleenex instead of a ketchup stained napkin, would she have taken it?' 

It might be useful to study your book and find the words that you are attracted to, and that are appearing far too much. It might not be verbs, it might be adjectives. 

Hugely successful authors have beloved words. I noticed that A.S. Byatt was devoted to the word 'indefatigable' and David Lodge likes the word, 'lackadaisical'.

The habit of overusing words has even become a plot-line! LP Hartley's novel The Love Adept has a plot line where the main character, a novelist is criticised for using the word 'slightly' too much. One literary critic writes to the novelist, 'slightly is a word that you are slightly too fond of'.