Monday, July 28, 2014

Little Fixes - Your Turn

Those of you who follow the blog regularly know that I have a penchant for finding little things in writing that are awkward and pull me out of the story. So often I wish the author and/or editor had taken one last pass through a manuscript and smoothed some of the rough edges.

I first wrote about my obsess... er, interest in those little problems back in October 2007 here at The Blood Red Pencil. Wow, we've been doing this a long time. But I digress. The title of that older post is Things That Drive an Editor Crazy, and not everyone has agreed with my critique. That's okay. We don't have to agree on everything, and one of the nice things about this blog is that we are all constantly learning if we keep ourselves open to new ideas and other opinions.

Today, just for fun, I thought I would turn the editing over to you, our readers. The following are some bits of writing that made me stop reading because I found them awkward. Why don't you try a rewrite on one or two and post in the comments? Hopefully, we can get them all smoothed out.

1.  When he arrived at Princeton, Limpys pickup and the area were crawling with people. (NOTE - in the story nobody was on Limpy's truck.)

2.  A group of kids are playing....

3. Sam, who had been listening despite himself, looked up at Smith. (This is a common device writers use when having a character do something they were reluctant to do, but the use of the reflexive pronoun is awkward. The context this sentence was taken from was one in which Sam was busy at his desk when Smith walks in to  "run something by you." Sam does not care for Smith and would rather not respond. So how could  that sentence be rewritten to better reflect that?)

4.  After five minuted of walking the beach is deserted.

5.  Suddenly he found himself blushing. (Again an awkward use of the reflexive pronoun. I'm also not fond of people "finding" themselves. Are they lost?)

6. I wasn't sure how long I'd slept for.

7. I don't want them to grow up an only child like I did.

Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent book releases are Doubletake and Boxes For Beds, both mysteries that are available for Kindle and in paper.  Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series, also now available as an e-book, along with Open Season, the first book in the series. To check her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.


  1. Yes, Maryann, irritating. Here's my go at a couple:
    2. A group of kids are playing.. 'Kids' is plural, so 'group is redundant - 'Kids are playing...' says the same thing.
    4. After five minuted (sic) of walking the beach is deserted. The typo aside, this is poor. 'After walking for five minutes on the beach, I am alone.'?

    1. Nice fix, Stuart. Thanks. And if the author wanted to stick with the A group of kids, it would be "is playing" not "are playing."

  2. 7. Them is plural - so they cannot be an only child. At least Bobby and Sue have each other. They won't face the loneliness of being an only child.

    1. Good catch, Heather. And naming the children helps us connect to the characters.

  3. Small speedbumps matter as much as large plot holes. I'd have quit reading this book at the first item. If I were critiquing I'd add the following notes:
    1. When he (who?)arrived at Princeton, Limpys pickup (cut or clarify), and the (what?)area were crawling with people (cliche: cut, stregthen description)..

    2. A group of kids are playing....(what? the mandolin? should this be past tense?)

    3. Sam, who had been listening despite himself, looked up at Smith. (narrator intrusion- make it stronger with more loathing).

    4. After five minuted of walking the beach is deserted. (Who walked? Was the beach entirely bereft of sea life?) Did you mean minutes?

    5. Suddenly he found himself blushing. (Character would not think "he found himself." Revise the body language. Why is he blushing?

    6. I wasn't sure how long I'd slept for. (Consider: How long had I slept? Lose the "for."

    7. I don't want them to grow up an only child like I did. (Is there more than one child? If not, choose he or she. If so, there is no danger of them being an only child.)

  4. What fun, Maryann!

    I particularly like #4. The walking beach has been deserted? That's a first. :-)

    I might restructure the sentence something like this: After five minutes of walking, I turned around to find the beach deserted. (There's that "find" again, only it's the beach rather than self.)

    Or I could say this: I strolled along the beach, weaving in and out of oversized towels covered by sun lovers in bikinis and reeking of myriad sunscreens. Five minutes later, I turned back and gasped. The beach was deserted. (Ah, now we have a hook and a mystery.)

    1. Yes we do have a mystery. (smile) And I am so glad the beach is no longer trying to walk. I just couldn't imagine it gathering all those grains of sand and toodling along the shoreline. LOL

  5. Those sorts of things bug the heck out of me, too. I wanted an apostrophe in Limpy's truck. And it sounds like the pickup is arriving at Princeton.

  6. I walked on the beach for five minutes and saw no one.

    Sam, who had been listening, looked up at Smith.

    Kids are/were playing.

    The kinky remark brought heat to his cheeks.

    How long had I slept?

    I don't want him to grow up like I did, without a sibling.

    Limpy's truck left me limp. I had no idea what the author was trying to say. Skip.

    1. LOL, Polly. I didn't know what was going on with Limpy's truck, either. I read the sentence several times trying to figure it out. The only sentences I like to re-read are those that are written so beautifully, I want to go back and savor the use of language.


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