Happy Holidays, my dear readers!
I’ve got a special present for my favorite writer-readers and that is… an inside peek into Dr Rayne’s Word-Loss Diet Workshop! The workshop is being hosted by the Outreach International RWA chapter and starts January 1, 2012. So if you’re looking for the perfect writing related present to get for yourself that can also be used as a tax deduction for the 2011 fiscal year… I encourage you to check it out!
And without further psychobabble-E-goodness from me, here’s that sneak peek into Dr. Rayne’s awesome workshop!
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TURN TO LOOK
SLIM YOUR WRITING STYLE FOR THE NEW YEAR
Does your writing style have bulges and saggy bits?
In thirty years as an editor, I’ve found the same fatty words bloating the style of many authors, especially novice writers. Certain words are notorious.
Two of the worst are ‘look’ and ‘turn’. They are the words most over-used by beginner writers. Editors need only a quick glance at the first page of a manuscript. If it contains ‘look’ and ‘turn’, the piece was penned by a beginner. If those words are used more than once, they may trigger instant rejection, because the author’s writing craft isn’t up to a publishable standard.
While there’s no law against those two owrds, they are often unnecessary. They contain empty calories without real nutrition make your writing bloated and fat. If you cut them from your diet, your writing style immediately becomes slim, trim, tight and toned.
‘Look’ is the number one word over-used in beginner’s writing. Many novice writers use this word on every page; some use it several times per page.
While you could replace your many instances of ‘look’ with synonyms (gaze, watch, glance, study, observe, peek, peer, stare, glare…) it’s often better to simply cut them.
You don’t need to tell the reader that ‘she looked at him’, ‘he looked at her’ and ‘they looked at it’. If two people are in conversation, or aware of each other, it’s implied that they’re looking at each other. If the story describes something, it’s implied that the point-of-view character is looking at it.
Your story will work just as well without telling us that the character is looking at something or someone, and the writing will be tighter and more exciting. Try it.
Looking at him, she nodded.
She nodded at him.
He looked at her and poured her a drink.
He poured her a drink.
As he gazed at her, he scratched an ear.
He scratched an ear.
“Xxx?” she asked, looking at him.
“Xxx?” she asked him.
“Xxx?” she asked.
She looked at the mountain which towered over the valley.
The mountain towered over the valley.
Do your characters turn towards one another before they say something? Do they turn towards something before they do anything? Do they turn forward, back or around before they move?
People turn all the time. They turn here, there and everywhere, often several times per minute. You don’t need to tell us that they do – it’s implied.
Watch this especially in dialogue scenes. If Character A addresses Character B, it’s implied that A turns to B.
She turned to him and clasped his hand.
She clasped his hand.
She changed her mind, turned and hurried home.
She changed her mind and hurried home.
He turned and walked away.
He walked away.
Next to ‘look’, ‘turn’ is the most overused word in beginner submissions. Watch especially for sentences containing both words. ‘She turned to look at him’ and ‘He turned and looked at her’ are certain signals that the author is a beginner. Make sure you don’t have them in your sample chapters.
Seasoned writers don’t use these sentences because they know they don’t need them.
He turned to look at her and nodded.
She turned, looked at him, and clasped his hand.
She clasped his hand.
Should you always cut ‘look’, ‘turn’ and ‘see’? Almost always. There are a few exceptions: If a dialogue scene involves several people, and the character addresses first one person and then another, it can be helpful to use use either ‘look’ or ‘turn’ – but not both.
Use your wordprocessor’s Find&Replace tool to find out how often you’ve used those words. You may want to make sure you’re sitting comfortably with a cup of calming tea at hand, because you may get a shock, finding you’ve used those words more often than you thought. Your manuscript may be riddled with them.
You don’t need to kill every single ‘look’ and ‘turn’. One of them per thousand words is fine. But if you have more, it may be a good idea to put your writing on a low-look and low-turn diet. If your manuscript contains more than a hundred ‘look’ or ‘turn’ per thousand words, your writing style needs serious improvement before your work is ready for publication.
I’d love to hear from you. When you’ve checked your WiP for ‘look’ and ‘turn’, post a comment to tell me how many you’ve found, and whether you’re going to cut some of them.
What other ‘wordy words’ do you think writers can cut from from their word diet?
If you have questions about writing style, or need advice on how to tighten your writing, please ask. I’ll be around for a week, and I enjoy answering questions.
JANUARY ONLINE CLASS: THE WORD-LOSS DIET
If your writing style tends towards wordy waffling, if your critique partners urge you to tighten, and if editorial rejections point out dragging pace, this class may be the answer. It’s perfect for toning your manuscript before submitting to editors and agents, or for whipping it into shape before indie publishing.
This is an interactive class with twelve lessons and twelve assignments, for writers who have a full or partial manuscript in need of professional polish. At the end of the class, you may submit a scene for individual critiques.
Dr Rayne’s Word-Loss Diet is much more fun than depriving yourself of food, and you’ll see real results fast.
The Word-Loss Diet, presented by Rayne Hall. 1-31 January 2012
Deadline: December 29, 2011. Fee: $25
Rayne Hall is the author of more than twenty books in different genres, published under several pen names with different publishers. Currently, she writes scary horror and outrageous fantasy fiction, and tries to regain the rights to her previously published works so she can re-publish them as e-books.
She has a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing, and has worked for nearly three decades in the publishing industry in Britain, Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, mostly as an editor.
After writing and editing, her great love is teaching, and she teaches online classes for writers: ‘Writing Fight Scenes’, ‘Writing Scary Scenes’, ‘Writing about Magic and Magicians’, ‘Writing about Villains’, ‘Dr Rayne’s Word-Loss Diet’, ‘SWOT for Writing Success’ and more.
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I am always amazed at the workshops that our very dear Dr. Rayne puts together! It never fails that I can always use every bit of the information presented in her workshops. I hope y’all enjoyed this snippet as much as I did and… oh wait, I almost forgot to mention. Rayne has a new book out–Hooray! It’s called Storm Dancer and is available now at Amazon! So if you’re looking for a great read over the holidays, click the link and check it out! (And yeah, I have to say that I love, love, LOVE the cover for this novel!)
Until next time… take care and happy holidays!