Monday, June 25, 2012

Eliminating Unnecessary Words

The topic of eliminating unnecessary words has been covered before. Many times in many places by many, many astute writers. 

Still, when I get to the down-and-dirty revision stage of a book, I'm surprised all over again at how many overused words I, well, overuse.

I'm working my way though A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die. I searched first for words Donald Maass enjoined us to replace: "felt, gasp, fear, terror." I looked at each character, mostly farmer Cam Flaherty, and made sure that was what she was feeling, and then made sure I showed it in the cleanest, clearest way possible rather than describing the feeling in words. I eliminated a LOT of "felt"s. I didn't find many "terror" instances, and I think all the "gasp"s are gone now.

Then I looked for "stare" in its various noun and verb permutations. Oh, my. Lots of people were staring, sometimes many times within a scene. Revised that one, just getting rid of the verb in quite a few cases. People can just "look" or can fix their eyes on something. Or you can assume if two folks are standing face to face they are mostly likely making eye contact.

Did you know you can eliminate dozens of occurrences of "that?" Yes, you can. The esteemed and insightful Ramona deFelice Long discussed this recently.

Tonight's exercise involves "just." I, and other speakers of English, legitimately use it as a minimizer: "It was probably just an object left long ago." As an intensifier: "The three of them had just made the noon deadline." As a time indicator: "She had just locked the back door." And so on. 

I've found that I use "just" instead of searching for alternatives, for more precise or more colorful ways of saying what I or my characters say or do.

In the minimizer case, how about rewording or removing it? ""It was probably [only] an object left long ago." 
In the intensifier case, how about rewording? "The three of them had barely made the noon deadline."
Same with the time indicator: "She had locked the back door not a minute earlier."

See? Those three examples occurred on one page of my manuscript. I have some hours of revision left on just that word alone. 

I have more to search for, but these are a good start. 

What's your favorite overused word when you revise? What are the kinds of unnecessary words you notice when you're reading? And if you feel like challenging me on this, I might just have to stare you down (after I gasp in terror...).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy

I am so busy right now I am not making posting here a priority. I apologize, dear readers.

The bright side is that you're going to have a much better book to read next spring, when A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die comes out. I have a bookstore pub date of May 28, in fact! It will be out in hardcover and eformats at the same time. I'm working hard to polish up the prose, tie up the loose ends, ramp up the tension, ante up the stakes. It's due September 1 to the publisher.

Soon I'll get the edits back for Speaking of Murder, too, and will have a few weeks to incorporate those. You'll be able to buy that book in trade paperback on September 15 (remember, it's under the name Tace Baker) and in eformats a month later. I've hired on a publicist and we're busy scheduling readings, thinking about getting the word out, brainstorming ideas to make these books a success.

On top of all that, I have a full-time demanding job, and oh, did I mention we've sold our lovely antique house in Ipswich and have to move by August 1? Whee! Which also includes finding the next place, whether it's our landing destination in Amesbury or a temporary apartment while we find the perfect downsizer with a sunny yard on a quiet street. 

Life is good, life is full. In the meantime, I do post every couple of weeks over at the Sisters in Crime New England blog, Pen, Ink, and Crimes. I also post regularly on Facebook at and

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Four-Author Retreat Report

Barb Ross put up such a great report about our writing retreat that I'm just going to link to her post over at Maine Crime Writers. Stop by and leave a comment for her!