There are the usual suspects: just, very, so, well, really, like, that, then. And the reflectives: felt, saw, heard, etc. that insert space between the reader and character. Also and of course (thank you, Mr. King) adverbs- any and all. Especially after dialogue tags like said (which should also be used sparingly).
She said sorrowfully.
Never write that.
Today I learned a new baaaaad word, one I hadn’t heard before. I thank Writer Unboxed, to which I am indebted for many lessons in craft. If you’re a writer, subscribe to this email. Even if you think you know everything, we all need reminders. I like to think they come at just the right time in my process. Like this one. This bad word I never heard before:
If you want the rationale for why SORRY has to go (most of the time), read this article. I went into my current manuscript and found 33 SORRY’s. Yikes. That’s a lot of apologizing. Bad words are bad because when we strike them, the writing is clearer and more punchy. After a little search-n-slash, I am down to 11 SORRY’s. Best I could do.
I’m beginning to believe that a good formula for writing is:
- Vomit straight onto the page. No holding back. No thinking. Just go.
- Work it with a writer’s group or a friend who doesn’t mind the SFD.
- Revise (some writers do a hundred or more revisions).
- Do a find and search. Remove bad words. Like SORRY.
- Get you some honest, smart, critical beta readers.
- Revise with their suggestions.
- Revise some more, till you want to vomit for real.
- Find and search a second time (you’ll add those suckers right back in without realizing).
- Wait a few months.
- If you’re still there, and the work is still there, send it off.
Here is a quote that can apply to any craft, but of course I think of writing: In the process of submitting to discipline and focusing our attention on a craft, we find ourselves neither omnipotent nor helpless, but somewhere in between.
That sounds like a nice space, doesn’t it? I find I’m usually one or the other.
And another: Learning a craft can teach us a lot about what exactly it is to actualise a self. The word ‘authenticity’ comes from the Greek authentes for ‘master’ or ‘one acting on his own authority’ (aut = self and hentes = making or working on/crafting). Importantly, it doesn’t mean ‘self-maker’ in the reflexive sense of one who makes himself, but one who makes or acts according to his own will – making from out of the self. And in crafting of our accord, we do actually actualise ourselves. We transform inner feelings into something real.
These were taken from this article on authenticity. I could write several posts spinning off this article, including a comment on Jim Jones and mass insanity. We look at Jim Jones and shake our heads and wonder how they could drink the Kool-Aid. Some were forced. How were they so ignorant to get into that situation in the first place? We’d never be that niave, we tell ourselves. First, there was fear. Fear of hell or fear of death. Okay, that’s fine. It’s reasonable to be afraid of those things. It’s human. Fear does funny things to us when we give it the keys. Fear is a terrible driver. Jim Jones’ followers believed their leader had all the answers, unquestioningly. Questions are always good. Then the people did what he told them to do for their own good. Small directives at first. Then bigger and bigger. I’m probably leaving out a bunch of details, but you get the gist of how a group of people found themselves communally tossing back dixie cups of cyanide.
If someone tells me I can’t talk about something, that’s exactly the thing I want to talk about.