Beware The Creeping Nouns

creeping-nouns

I am reading A Writer’s Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies That Work by Jack Hart. Though it is geared toward journalism,  the information is useful and inspiring for my fiction.

One sign of a skilled writer is avoiding redundancy. Mr. Hart uses the analogy of felling a a-writers-coachtree. The skilled woodsman takes efficient strokes and controls where the tree falls, but the “city slicker” hacks away, exhausting himself and endangering his neighbors.

Sharpen Your Axe

During your first draft, you don’t want to think about word choice, you just want to get your ideas down, right? But what if, some of those overused words, those pesky redundancies and expletives never got on the page? It would save you a ton of time during editing.

This Halloween, you are sharpening your axe for a monster hunt. You are hunting E.B. White’s “leeches that infest the pond of prose” and Jack Hart’s parasites that live alongside them in that pond. Once you are trained to recognize these monsters you can stop them dead before they get to your pages!

The Leeches and Parasites

leech

Leeches –

Expletives are more than the beeps we hear on TV. The word expletive also means any syllable,word, or phrase conveying no independent meaning,esp inserted in a line of verse for the sake of the metre (from dictionary.com).

Make sure to hack away at “it is,” “it was,” “there is,” “there were,” and “there are.”

Creeping Nouns are nouns that attach themselves to other nouns but add nothing but dead weight. Mr. Hart believes that if we avoid unnecessary use of “situation,” “field,” and “condition,” we could eliminate half the creeping nouns published. Here are a couple examples from A Writer’s Coach.

. . . and one source said the Cincinnati Reds manager faces a possible suspension for gambling activities.

Gambling is already the activity causing the possible suspension. Activities is redundant.

Officials are saying the combination of millions of dying trees, the seventh year of drought conditions and . . .

Drought is the condition thus conditions is redundant.

Hart’s other examples of creeping nouns you should include on your monster hunt are: field, industry, profession, concerns, event, experience, facilities, situation, and status.

Remember: these aren’t words you want to eliminate from your writing, they are words that can become creeping nouns that create redundancy when they cling to other nouns.

parasites

Parasites –

To avoid parasites, you want to avoid over using qualifiers. A qualifier is the same as a modifier – a word, phrase, or sentence element that limits or qualifies the sense of another word, phrase, or element in the same construction.(dictionary.com)

Mr. Hart calls these parasites “petty modifiers” and “needless qualifiers.” The monsters that should see the sharp blade of your axe before they mangle your writing are: rather, somewhat, generally, virtually, pretty, slightly, a bit and little.

And don’t forget the pernicious overused words: very, like and just!

Happy monster hunting and happy #Writober.

 

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Mother Nature Wouldn’t Let Me Post: A Three-Stomached Blob Monster

fantasy TappsActually, Mother Nature is being mean! I woke up yesterday morning to a tree branch, brandished as a projectile by the wind like an arrow, through the rear windshield of my car. Shortly thereafter, the power went out and stayed out until around midnight. This morning, a huge tree branch had completely removed the rear windshield of my mate’s car and dented the hood. Really? Twice in two days? I still can’t believe it. And the wind is still howling. Looking at the news, I’m just grateful a tree didn’t fall on the house.

Needless to say, my writing routine is a little out of whack.

However, I did make a sketch of an illustration idea for my Middle Grade Fiction. I want the illustrations to look like a little boy who loves to draw made them. What do you think?

A Three-Stomached Blob Monster

A Three-Stomached Blob Monster

Agent Query Progress

A small break in the clouds.

A small break in the clouds

For once, I felt I was making some progress in my search to find agents to query. Then, the moment I was sure I had found someone and would get my first query letter out today, to my complete horror, her blog said she wasn’t accepting queries at this time. I clicked back to her agency page and there it was under her picture in red letters, not accepting queries. I could have saved myself a lot of time if I had noticed that before I started researching her further. At least I hadn’t read a bunch of books she represented before finding out she wasn’t accepting queries, this time.

Today, unlike most days of my frustrating agent search, I have found someone who looks interesting. She’s interested in writer/illustrators for middle grade fiction, which excites me. A while back, I read that editors liked to use their own illustrator, so a writer was better off not sending illustrations with the story. However, after reading that this agent wants illustrations, I’m going to get to work on the drawings to go with my story, at least a couple, and send them in with my query. I’ve been wanting to draw my monsters anyway, and I’ll need them if traditional publishing routes don’t work out, so this day just got a whole lot more fun!

Anyone have any tips on making the agent search easier?