Monday, May 24, 2010

THAT WAS JUST FELT

Good Monday morning gentle readers. As you know, I'm still sort of on blogging hiatus, or at least trying to be. I've been around the blogosphere but haven't been posting as much as I'd like. However, I've been working on my manuscript and have found a few things I'd like to share with you.

For those of you who haven't heard, I received another partial request for MASQUERADE. I was quite astounded actually because it came 7 hours after I sent the e-mail query. I am thrilled, yet tempering that with a good dose of reality. My last 5 partials were met with rejections so.... But like the good little professional writer I am, I sent it out this morning. Snail mail. Hey, did you know it only cost $2.07 to send 36 pages cross country? Snail mail might not break my piggy bank after all.

Any-hoo, because of this, I decided to give the manuscript one last look-see. Boy howdy am I glad I did. The first three chapters were polished until they sparkled. Except for THAT. The bane of my existance.

The word -- THAT. Four letters, four tiny little letters, that, if used in the wrong place, make you sound like a newbie. Believe it or not, I went through the whole ms. again. And I did not use the 'find' feature on my program. I re-read the whole thing. Guess what? I am now, believe it or not, 632 words lighter in the ms. Yes, you read correctly, 632 freaking words.

Who knew? Now some of these were changed to 'which', which I happen to like, and only one was changed to 'who', (thank God I payed attention in English class) but for the most part, I removed them. I also found a few places where I could re-write the entire sentence to make it THAT much better. All in all, I think I did a pretty good job.

While I was going through this, I also decided to see if I could find any FELTS. I'm so proud of myself, I only had two. One I couldn't change, the other I reworded.

JUST is another one of my ugly words but I must have caught all those during the first 1200 revisions. I know they're in all my first drafts.

Then we come to WAS, however, this is a whole other animal. WAS is easy, WAS is quick, WAS is simple. Everybody loves WAS. She was tired, he was smiling, it was hot. OH. MY. GOD. I am now on page 192 (for this I cheated, I did use the 'find' feature as it WAS going to take me forever to find them all). I think the manuscript is so much better for it. Everything is more descriptive, has more flesh, more meat on the bones. I kept a few in there because sometimes WAS is just the best word to use. You know what I mean.

Perhaps now I know why I received the 5 rejections on the partials. I'm supposed to know what I'm doing when I say I'm writing a book. I thought I did. But you know, I have to say, it's true, you really do need some time away from a ms. before you go back and edit. It's been three months since I looked at it with fresh eyes. Unfortunately those fresh eyes caught every stupid mistake a newbie makes. So I guess I'm not as hot-shit as I thought I WAS!

Anyway, thanks for stopping by today. I don't know when I'll be back, probably when I find some other stupid thing I've done to tell you, so you don't do it. We can all learn from my mistakes. I think I've made them all.

Have a great Monday!

42 comments:

Davin Malasarn said...

It's funny, I went through a phase where I was very sensitive to "that." I cut out all the thats I could. Now, I find that I put a lot of them back in. :P

Summer said...

Woohoo! And when they request a full, it's going to be even sparklier. :-)

Falen said...

hey, we're always growing and always getting better. Every time you find something you feel is wrong, the manuscript is JUST that much stronger

Terry Towery said...

That was awesome! ;)

Anyhoo, thanks a lot. Now I'M going to spend hours combing through my damned MS again for the umpteenth time looking for THAT and WAS, etc. Yikes.

That said (heh heh), I do think things like this, while great in moderation, sometimes lead to a slippery slope when it comes to writing. Stephen King HATES adverbs and, over the years, has stripped his writing down admirably.

But there's only one problem - I like his older stuff better. When he was using adverbs and THAT and WAS. His writing had a better flow. It lived and breathed in a way his newer stuff doesn't. I don't think it's a coincidence that 85 percent of his fans like his pre-1985 stuff the best.

Something to consider on this fine Monday morn.

Oh, and congrats again on the request. You rock! You are SO close even I can feel it. And I am envious of you and your success. I can only hope to get a partial request someday, instead of the damned form rejections ... :(

j.m. neeb said...

"That" is the bane of my existence, too.

Since learning x-amount of years ago (that "x" keeps growing and I'm in denial...) in my Advanced Comp high school English class that the word is "evil," I try to avoid it at all costs. Unfortunately, I developed a bad habit of avoiding it even when that is not the correct course of action.

KarenG said...

Everybody had their crutch words! Good thing you caught so many of them. Mine are SO, JUST, AND, to name a few. And thank heavens for word search!

Jen said...

You are really working hard to make it sparkle so go you!!

I think it's a great reminder to think about all the common words we use when explaining a story and then working them out of the equation. I have a feeling that your 632 freaking words are going to become a lot higher in my novel. Thanks for the tip (even though you were just sharing your own thoughts you gave one!) I can easily run through this and eliminate the words that don't matter. And by easy I mean the find button, not the task at hand.

Rena said...

I use "that" too much. Congrats on the request. Good luck with THAT!

Donna Hole said...

Really and Just are my catch words. I've went through a couple times to see if they can be removed or changed. I'm not so sure about other words. It's great you caught all those: 632, wow.

Good work.

.......dhole

aLmYbNeNr said...

Congratulations and good luck on the partial!

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Ah, the curse of "That." I feel your pain. My CPs also attack me for "finally," which tends to be completely unnecessary, or a sign that your sentence isn't strong enough. I guess this is why revision is so important. Good luck querying!

Piedmont Writer said...

Davin -- I did leave the necessary ones in place. I'm not that newbie.

Summer -- Sparkly like diamonds baby!

Sarah -- Thank God we grow. If I didn't, I'd still be sitting on the manuscript from last year, YUCK!

Terry -- Thanks man. And I heard King had ghostwriters now so he doens't even write his own stuff anymore.

Karen -- Oh yes, thank heaven for word search. THAT was bad enough, can you imagine WAS?

Jen -- Well, we have to pay it forward, so if someone can learn from my lesson, that's great.

Rena -- Thanks so much!

Lynn -- Thanks so much!

Shannon -- jeez, I guess now I'll have to look for finally too. I think that's another one of my words.

Ted Cross said...

Congratulations to you! I am celebrating along with you, as I got my first ever partial request today. Yay for us!

Lady Glamis said...

I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with any of those words if you use them here and there. Like Davin, I've gone through phases where certain words seem absolutely terrible. You know, all those rules you hear about everywhere....

One of my worst is the word "really." I also love the word "just." I use these too much, and yes, doing a search and replace can be helpful, but I don't fret too much unless I feel those words are bogging down my prose to the point that it would annoy anyone (even a non-writer) reading it.

Congrats on your partial request!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

A couple times in crit group, someone marked repeated words in my manuscript, and I thought "How did I not see those???" We become blind to many overused words, so thank goodness for search-and-find. Good luck on those requests!

Shelley Sly said...

"I don't know when I'll be back, probably when I find some other stupid thing I've done to tell you, so you don't do it." Hehehe.

I'm only chuckling because I've been there -- no, I AM there -- with all the extra words I use. I recently started cutting out my overuse of "just", but I've got a long ways to go before I'm as polished as can be.

Congrats on this new request! As usual, I wish the very best for you! I know I'm going to see you in print one day, and I'm going to shout from the mountains how I knew you before you were famous. ;)

Talli Roland said...

Yay for partial requests! Keep us posted!

I love the word 'that' but I've managed to mostly get rid of it!

G.~ said...

Good luck with your partial.

I'd like to just be able to finish my first draft.

Ed Pilolla said...

good luck with your manuscript. sounds like you enjoy working it over and making it better. no stopping that sort of good energy. peace.

Linda G. said...

Congrats on the super-fast partial request! And good job on weeding out the nuisance words. I'm always amazed to find how many of those slip into my mss when I'm not looking. ;)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Well, great news on the request!

I'm partial to the word "just" myself. Go figure.

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

There is no short cut to editing with a fresh pair of eyes. What a great lesson learned! When we write, we are so close and intimate with our work that our eyes stop reading each and every word. We have the dang thing memorized! I've had the same experience with my short fiction you describe here. It's dumbfounding how many errors and fatty words I find in stories I left as spit-polished and lean as possible when I "finished" them, weeks before.

Good luck with that partial out there!

Piedmont Writer said...

John -- Sorry I missed you first go 'round, blogger must have eaten you. I can never remember the 'rule' so I figure, when I come across it, if the sentence still sounds okay when I read it without it, then the 'that' can go.

Donna -- Really used to do it to me too, now when I have the urge to writ it, I stop myself, unless it's in dialogue.

Ted -- Yes, I still can't believe it!!!

Michelle -- Oh yes, I've kept them in in certain places, including the 'just's' and a few was's, but not all of them.

Tricia -- Oh so very blind! And now with my new bi-focals I should be able to see everything.

Shelley -- I hope you still know me even if I never become famous!!!

Talli -- I wonder if there's a program in Word THAT you could JUST type in all the words you don't want to use. And then when you type them, they disappear.

G -- My best friend's name is G. Honest. As they say, here, there and everywhere, "Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing."

Ed -- Thanks for friending. I actually do like editing, sshhhh, don't tell anyone.

Linda -- Yeah, that was crazy. I've been rejected faster though.

Jennifer -- Starts with a 'j' maybe?

Nicole -- Oh, the glazed over eyes. I was freaking out Saturday night. Another reason why I used the search and replace. I couldn't see anymore.

notesfromnadir said...

I'm so impressed that you got another request. What a great way to begin the week! :)

Lola Sharp said...

I can't seem to breakup with my bad boy lover, 'That', either. He sneaks in my ms when I'm not looking. He's definitely a crutch word and a bad habit that I struggle with. Occasionally I cheat on him with "Was'. They're my two worst offenders.
I Search and Destroy them out during revisions.

I'm so excited for you!! :)

laurel said...

Congrats on the partial request. Hope you get some good news soon!

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

Hmm... I think I'd better go reread my ms. Smartly. There's bound to be too many 'was, that, just'.

Good luck!

PS. No I haven't send my query yet. Sorry :(

Kelley Vitollo said...

Man, I think THAT will be the death of me. Why does that word always jump into my MS?

Elle Strauss said...

I've never done a pet word search before, but I think I will next time. Thanks for sharing!

sarahjayne smythe said...

Woot! Another request for a partial. Go!you! Congrats. I'm so happy for you. :)

DL Hammons said...

I'm not saying a word...because I have no room to speak! :)

Dangerous With a Pen said...

Well, you are miles ahead of me, honey... I am a newbie... and I don't even know what my "ugly words" (lol, love it) are yet! :D

Palindrome said...

Woo-hoo! Tighten that MS! THAT is sweet!

Christi Goddard said...

I managed to cut over 2,000 words when I got rid of 'that' and 'was.' For me, this was good, as it was over 125,000 words at the time.

Crimey said...

"that" and "there is/are" are two of those sneaky newie red flags that I have to take care of in my current manuscript before I'm ready to query.

Congrats on another partial request, yeah you!

Julie Dao said...

CONGRATULATIONS! Can't wait until you announce that they've requested your full ;)

Sandy Shin said...

Good luck on your partial!

Some of those words are very difficult to eliminate; they infest a manuscript. I'm not done with my WiP yet, and already I despair of getting rid of all the WAS's. :)

Susan Fields said...

I'm guilty of overusing "was", "just", and "that" also. Part of my editing is checking each chapter for "was" and "were" (using the find feature). I'll have to add "just" and "that" to my list. I never even thought about "felt." I'll have to take a look and see if I'm guilty of that one, too. Congrats on another partial request - good luck!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Congrats on the partial request- I hope it turns into a full!

That is definitely bad. So is just. And there are a whole lot of others that sneak in there to bog down my MS. Search and destroy!

Tara said...

This WAS a great post. Ha! I've still got my fingers crossed over here!

Dominique said...

Congrats on getting a partial request. Hope it turns into a full request. :) Good luck!

Portia said...

Great news about the partial! That's awesome news :-) The "justs" made me smile. Apparently I've been attached to that word recently, because I keep finding it as I edit.