Harpies & Gray Birds of Loneliness

angel & devilDo you feel like you have that devil on your shoulder when you write?—the one who says, “This is crap, utter nonsense, never should be published.”

You are not alone. Back in the years when I was writing freelance magazine articles, I heard that negative voice every time I had an article published. “Oh, that was just a fluke. You’ll never write another one worthy of publishing.”

And now, even though I’ve had five books published, I get bogged down in the rewrite of my sixth one, and continually hear the voice say, “You probably shouldn’t publish this one. Just give up on it. Nobody likes your character, she’s self-centered and whiny. You can’t fix it. Forget about it.”

Some days I listen to the negative voice and say, “OK. I’m just going to chuck this book.” But other days I think, No, you’ve done this before. You know what to do. Keep on plugging away. You’ll get there!

While it’s not comfortable, it’s good to know others struggle with the same negativity. My author friend and multi-published author, Jane Kirkpatrick, calls the voices her “harpies.”

grey birdJane Friedman recently wrote a blog titled “Creation and Doubt are Enjoined Twins.” She also references an article by Devin Murphy in Glimmer Train, “The Gray Birds of Loneliness,” where he talks about John Steinbeck’s negative, critical voices. This is from widely acclaimed authors.

No, we are not alone!

I hope we all can recognize this element of our writing personalities and balance it out with the positive voice of the angel on the other shoulder, telling us, “You can do it. You have the talent, the skill, and the perseverance. Don’t give up!”

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Published in: on September 4, 2017 at 8:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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How to Tighten Your Manuscript

writingI learned a new term recently: “Pleonasms.”

A pleonasm is a word or phrase which can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. For example, “John walked to the chair and sat down.” Down is a pleonasm and can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Although I was not familiar with the term, I did know them when I saw them. In fact, part of my editing advice revolves around deleting extraneous words. Words such as “that,” “very,” “both,” “just,” and “there was.” Others might include “began,” “started,” or “continued.”

I also caution to watch use of “ly” words. These words are often used to prop up weak verbs. For example: “She walked quickly” can be stronger if written “She strode” (or bounded or rushed). Likewise with the “to be” verbs (was, were, had been, etc.) especially when used with an “ing” verb. “She was walking” is better as “She walked.”

Some authors like to use taglines (he said, she said) plus an action: …she said, taking a sip of coffee. The simple action is sufficient: She took a sip of coffee.

You also don’t need to describe two actions at once: She nodded and smiled. Or: He puffed himself up and took a swig...

NO symbolA writer friend of mine is looking at every sentence in her manuscript and challenging herself to remove at least one word from each. She cut 14,000 words from a 400-page manuscript.

I challenge you to go one step farther, see if you can delete an entire phrase from a sentence, an entire sentence from a paragraph, a paragraph from a scene. Exterminate those “Pesky Pleonasms.”

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