Monthly Archives: December 2013

When to Cut and Run

No, my blog isn’t dead. At least, not yet. I haven’t written in quite some time. My excuses are many.

First, it’s the holidays! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all that jazz. I know, I know, I haven’t written since April, I think, so I can’t use the holidays as an excuse. But I do sincerely wish everyone all the best and a happier New Year.

I have been writing, just nothing worth sharing yet. I’ve started on three short stories, none of which have a decent beginning or ending. I used to write short stories all the time, many years ago, but they kept growing longer and longer. That’s why I switched to writing novels. But it seems I need to publish more short stories in order to sell myself as a novelist. Frustrating.

I’m editing my thesis novel Daughter of the Bride (again) and have been for what seems like a very long time. Well, since graduating in June. It would be helpful if I trusted my own instinct, but I don’t. I hired an editor who made many valuable suggestions. I didn’t use all her ideas, but most. So I added and deleted scenes and wound up with over 95,000 words. I asked my writer friend Marla to read it. She had some great advice, too, some of which helped me remove scenes my editor had already advised cutting, but I had stubbornly refused. Now, after struggling with what many writers call “killing my darlings,” I’m deleting more scenes. I’m searching for overused words, too, which is enough to drive anyone crazy.  {Little side note of trivia: the lesser-known Arthur Quiller-Couch coined the term “Murder your darlings” in his 1914 lecture “On Style” (slate.com)}.

The following is a sampling of words and the number of times they appear in my manuscript:

was-733, were-199, when-180, adter-115, once-72, while-102

turned-91, stood-65,went-37, moved-39, seemed-30, appeared-30,

looked-178, glanced-75, stared-58, gazed-29, watched-62, peeked-15,

peered-19, squinted-7,just-81, well-53, oh-46, sighed-39, shrugged-23.

I could go on and on, but I won’t bore you with numbers. But you get the idea. I could go on and on with the word search and count, too, and drive myself insane! Or in my case, further insane. It’s addicting, playing with words, finding ways to replace them with something better. What I want to know is when do you stop the searching and thumbing through the thesaurus? How many times do you have to use a word before it is considered overused?

I’m down to a little over 82,000 words. I wonder. Is it time cut some more or run for the insane asylum? What would you do?

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