I love the Find/Replace function in my word document. Once I’ve “read through” and tweaked my novel quite a few times, I rely on the Find function to help me catch sneakity sneakers.
So, open up your manuscript document to your story/novel/essay/letter to the editor/Dear John letter/Dear Jane letter/Manifesto on Life as a Misunderstood Artist. I’ll wait *Jeopardy Music Here* . . . okay, now, using the “Find and Replace” pull down menu (or whatever you do to “find” words or phrases in your document), type in the following:
*Character name was.*
Kat was sitting on her arse as she typed notes for her blog. Or, daren’t I write: Kat was sitting on her arse typing notes for her blog. Maybe: Kat was sitting on her blog typing notes up her arse—um, no . . . we’ll use the first one.
She was drinking her coffee and it tasted of dark silky goodness and even if it didn’t who cares because she slept late and now she’s discombobulated—COFFEE NOW!
The dog was sitting in the grass. (Yes, sitting—! There is no “h” there.)
These sentences can be tighter. You can use fewer words (not LESS words FEWER words—remember, fewer can be counted). You can make them tighter/active by removing the “was” and that “ing word,” thusly:
Kat sat on her arse . . .
She drank coffee . . .
The dog sat . . .
Most often, we want the immediate in our work, right? To show action and not passivity. Do you see the difference? A caveat: Sometimes I like passive sentences. Sometimes I may use “was/ing” phrasing. Sometimes I thumb my nose at my own pickity persnickitynessessess—but I do so with Intent. It is this Intent that makes all the difference (see Note below).
Passive phrasing can be found in other areas, such as:
Kat was walking down the hall when she was tripped by her psycho dog.
Kat tripped over her psycho dog. The hallway floor ain’t soft—ask her face.
Okay, maybe that second one isn’t—*Kat sips more coffee to help her become more eloquent but it isn’t working—* the best example, but do you see that the second one feels more like action and the first one, with that was and ing word, reads more passive?
Now in your FIND space, type in it’s and its—how many times did you accidentally type it’s when you meant its, or the other way around? It is versus the possessive its. And while I am talking about its it’s—perhaps there are times its and it’s should not be it’s and its. Maybe there should be an actual Thing there instead of an it? Lame example number fifty-five: “It is nice to be cozy in the little log house” could be “I am cozy in the little log house” . . . .
Bug I digest—seriously, that’s what I wrote *need more coffee* instead of But I digress. Dang–!—annnywaaaay, I do something that takes more time: as I read my manuscript for edits/re-writes, I say in my wittle Pea-Head:
It’s time to sip more coffee because my brain is spongy: I say aloud “It is time . . . .”
Or: Put the coffee on its skin and rub it in. I say “Put the coffee on its . . . .” Saying the it’s and its aloud (or in my pea-head) forces me to pay attention to what I have written down so there aren’t any sneakity sneaker its/it’s errors—and believe me, it’s (it is) easy for these mistakes to happen as we furiously write our Drafts.
We all know this, right? We all know that Your is possessive and You’re means You are, right? This is one I never think to double-check, but I do often see errors in casual writing. We’re typing ninety-to-nothing and OOPS! But, I am assuming here that everyone knows the difference, right?
Your words are wonderful because you’re wonderful!
NOTE: What I want you all to be aware of is “being aware.” When you know and understand—even if it’s (it is) in your own twisted around kind of way—the Rules or Basics of Rules, your writing becomes stronger. You break the rules because you know them and it’s (it is) fun to play with the language. There is a difference! If your work—novel, short story, letter, resume, blog posts, etc.—are full of errors because you do not understand, or do not have a basic understanding of, grammar/syntax, well dang, then your work reads weaker than if you Learn and Apply and then Manipulate to your wittle heart’s desire.
Next week, as I promised I’d return to, I’ll write about The Comma.
So, y’all—do your eyes follow anyone to the door? If so, you best go catch them and stick those suckers back into their sockets. Lawd!
(photos by kat magendie )