Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I feel just so very up.

Catch the filler words in the title? Guess what I'm doing again? I thought I had finished revisions to the nth power of nine, revisions as far as the final digit of pi, revisions that, if turned into frequent flier miles, would take all of the Richlands to New Zealand and back, first class. But no. Last week an agent rejected my full manuscript: "I just didn't feel the rest of the chapters were as strong as the first five." After I moped for twenty-four hours, I agreed. My first five chapters rocked enough for her to request a full and read it a week after submission, but the rest of The Soldier rocks like a chair, not an amplifier.

How do I know? Because finding and replacing the words "feel" and "felt" in the manuscript took me two hours. I didn't have a chance to tackle the third word on my list, "seem," and the list continues with then, just, few, some, even, still, only, up, down, against, back, look(ing), and sound. Last year I judged a writing contest entry that used the word "just" 43 times. In twenty-five pages. Sometimes Control-F is a better friend than coffee, and that is from a Seattle-ite.

I also like Joanne Bourne's technical advice on words to check. It reminded me to look not only for filler words like those above, but also for overused descriptions. Eyes and hands and fingers, oh my. I suspect I'll cringe when I read through the frequent hand/finger references in The Soldier.
(By the way, Joanna Bourne is a wonderfully gracious person - I sat next to her twice at 2008 RWA Nationals - and The Spymaster's Lady is a superb Regency. Please put it on your To Be Read list.)

Here's another word I spread far and wide through my writing - adjust. I tried to layer body language into the manuscript. Instead I created fidgeters. It makes me wonder how the saintly Mr. Richland tunes out my own constant "adjusting" of glasses, hair, bra straps and sleeves.

What words do you know you over use? And how many times do you use just or feel/felt? Can you be more atrocious than two hours of feeling removal? Let me know so we can wave our fingers and grip our hands together.


Kate Diamond said...

I haven't been writing lately, so I don't have writerly words of comfort for you. But I do have a bit of teacher comfort. We've been reading "Heart of Darkness," widely recognized as a classic. English teachers everywhere ooh and ahh over Joseph Conrad's stylistic choices...

...and yet my students are giggling and marking a tally every time he uses the phrase "brooding gloom."

Anna Richland said...

I misread that first as "brooding groom" and thought it sounded more interesting than I remembered!

Kali said...

I have a pronoun problem. I just can't stop using them. My longest offense was 600+ words without the use of a proper noun. It was a very confusing section.