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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I Just Cannot

Editors are wonderful people. Well, the ones I have worked with are. ;-) For a writer, it’s hard to trust our babies—er, our stories—to someone else. But a good editor is a necessity, they help us polish our stories and make them shine. The refining process isn’t always easy—when your favorite line in the whole book doesn’t move the story forward, it needs to be cut. I’ve had this happen more than once and it never gets easier. But, a good editor can point out our errors and recommend changes without changing our unique voice and without making us feel like we should set our laptops on fire and move to an island with no writing implements and no internet connectivity.

I’m sure that each author has certain words and phrases that they overuse and I’m gradually getting a handle on mine. Therefore, before I send a story to my editor I search my document for all occurrences of the words that, very, really, and anything else that ends in ly and make changes as needed. I also do one last read-through of the entire manuscript in order to catch any phrases that I may have overused. 

Cricket is quite the feline editor.
However, there is one habit that I simply cannot seem to break. I love writing dialogue but, for some unknown reason, when I do, I stop using contractions. It’s very easy for me to start sounding like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. For those of you who aren’t Star Trek nerds, Data was an android who wanted nothing more than to be human. (Think Pinocchio in space.) Although he is far more human than he thinks, one of the things that makes Data different is that he doesn’t use contractions when he speaks. I would be awesome at writing his dialogue, LOL.

I use contractions in my every day speech, so I’m not sure why I tend not to when I write. When making revisions prior to sending my story to my editor I go through my dialogue and find as many contractions—or lack of contractions—as I can. However, whenever I get my feedback from the editor, there are always many instances that I didn’t catch. I don’t know if this is something that I’m always going to struggle with or if I’ll get better (hopefully the latter). After all, I just can’t is much catchier than I just cannot isn’t it?

As a matter of fact, in reading through this post, I found a few places where I could have used contractions but didn’t. I left them as evidence of my Contraction Dysfunction.

If you’re an author, what is your writing Achilles heel?

Until next month, happy reading!

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  1. I'm the opposite. I use contractions just fine in conversation, but when it comes to text, those apostrophes fly out the window. It helps that I read the manuscript out loud as part of my revision process. (And I love Data and Spock who also did not use contractions)

  2. My writing Achilles' Heel is 'and then'. Once I finish the rough draft, I run a Find for this phrase so I can rewrite the sentences.

  3. I feel ya, Isabella. I have gotten stuck on a particular word in an MS and just can't let it go. I also tend to start off sentences with the same pronoun over and over which is terrible. I had an editor in my early writing career send back my MS with all my similar pronouns highlighted. It was a yellow blaze let me tell ya.
    I am fortunate to use dialogue the same way I talk, so no Data stuff going on there. I think the author I like the best, Josh Whedon, who wrote "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Angel", and the "Firefly" series including the movie "Serenity", writes sensational dialogue with funny quips and phrases that make his stories snap with vigor and humor.
    Good luck with your dialogue going forward, Isabella. I wish you every success.