More than likely this will be a nonwriting day. Trying to stay true to my word and just stay away from the novel today.
It isn’t as easy as it sounds. But I think I can do it. It’s really weird though, taking a day to just do nothing.
I’ve been spending some quality time with my Toyota 4-Runner (finally located a back window glass), chasing down an errant package online, etc.
Anyway, I thought I ought to at least put up a good topic for you.
Topic: Write. What. You. Mean.
For many years I’ve kept a running list of awkward expressions, misplaced modifiers, and other syntactical anomalies that run the risk of distracting a reader. And by “distracting the reader” I mean jerking the reader out of the story.
Most often, this is a result of inserting unintentional humor into a serious scene. If the scene is also meant to invoke feelings of sadness or despair or tension, the inadvertent insertion has an even stronger effect.
One of my favorite authors once wrote that a character “kicked her horse up a hill.”
Of course, she meant to write that the character “spurred” her horse up the hill. But she caught that before it was published.
That instance was truly unique, too. These anomalies more often have to do with eyes than with any other human attribute.
I’ve seen eyes popping out of heads, flying around the room, lighting on lapels, and wandering dreamily along a garden path, among many other actions that eyes generally won’t take on their own.
Now just for the record, I don’t go looking for these things unless I’m being paid to copyedit a work. Otherwise I’m just another reader, reading (or trying to) for pleasure.
But when the reader is jerked out of the story by some inane word or phrase, that’s strictly the responsibility of the writer.
I made the latest addition to my list this morning. And I took it from a passage the author used in a pull-quote on a website to advertise the book. Seriously.
Now I count this author as a friend, so I won’t mention the author’s name or website or gender or the name of the book. Here’s the sentence:
The baron shifted in his seat and raked his eyes across everyone at the table.
My first reaction was a grin. The second was a snarky, “Wow, dude, that must’a hurt.”
Seriously, can you imagine what the poor baron must have gone through in “raking his eyes” across those folks?
And the folks themselves must have been thoroughly grossed out, as evidenced by the very next sentence in the pull quote:
Several members began to protest….
Two more snarky thoughts came to mind: “Y’think?” and “Yes, I imagine they would.”
I actually laughed out loud. And for me, just like that, the passage the author used to entice me to buy the book had the exact opposite effect. The book was a definite no-buy.
Now understand, this doozy occurred in a serious, tension-filled passage in a serious, tension-filled book.
Of course, I know the author meant the baron raked his “gaze” across those at the table. Or that he “glared” at them. Or something.
Something that didn’t involve trying to make me (the reader) grin and be snarky.
When I mentioned this sort of thing during a presentation at a writers’ conference, a writer in the audience said, “But the reader will know what I mean.”
Yes. The reader will know what you mean. The reader will figure it out. And it takes only a second or two for the reader to go through that process.
But figuring out what you mean is not the reader’s job. The reader’s job is to relax and be entertained.
And that second or two might well be all it takes for him or her to put down your book and find something enjoyable to read.
The bigger problem with this sort of thing is that if a writer uses it once, s/he’ll use it throughout the book. And knowing it will be there (it was in the pull quote) keeps me and untold others from buying the book in the first place.
Think about that.
Today, and Writing
Rolled out a little after 4. I have to take the grandson in to work around 7:30, then go get him around 1 unless they keep him longer.
No writing, other than the above. I also cross-posted the topic to the big blog. It will go live there in November.
Nothing today. Dean announced the March online workshops if you’re interested.
Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 780 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 780
Writing of Will Perkins (novel, working title)
Day 1…… 4219 words. Total words to date…… 4219
Day 2…… 4003 words. Total words to date…… 8222
Day 3…… 3383 words. Total words to date…… 11605
Day 4…… 3124 words. Total words to date…… 14729
Day 5…… 3373 words. Total words to date…… 18102
Day 6…… 2294 words. Total words to date…… 20396
Day 7…… 3102 words. Total words to date…… 23498
Day 8…… 2578 words. Total words to date…… 26076
Day 9…… 2111 words. Total words to date…… 28187
Day 10… 2561 words. Total words to date…… 30748
Day 11… 4073 words. Total words to date…… 34821
Day 12… 1721 words. Total words to date…… 35648
Day 13… 3289 words. Total words to date…… 38937
Day 14… 2311 words. Total words to date…… 41248
Day 15… 2262 words. Total words to date…… 43510
Day 16… 2046 words. Total words to date…… 45556
Day 17… 4189 words. Total words to date…… 49745
Day 18… 4758 words. Total words to date…… 54503
Day 19… 2648 words. Total words to date…… 57178
Day 20… 2231 words. Total words to date…… 59409
Day 21… 2010 words. Total words to date…… 61419
Day 22… 4147 words. Total words to date…… 65566
Day 23… 2010 words. Total words to date…… 67576
Day 24… 1976 words. Total words to date…… 69552
Day 25… 2728 words. Total words to date…… 72280
Day 26… 1217 words. Total words to date…… 73497
Day 27… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX
Total fiction words for the month……… 56262
Total fiction words for the year………… 148872
Total nonfiction words for the month… 16270
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 35960
Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 184832