Kay: Out with the Old

One of my plans for the new year is to resurrect the finished manuscripts sitting on my hard drive and see if I can revise them into suitable shape for publication. The likeliest candidate for this treatment is the first manuscript I wrote. Years ago a well-known publishing company put it into a cycle of “accept with revisions/accept/on hold/accept with revisions” for two years before my editor moved on and it was finally rejected by her replacement. That’s traditional publishing for you! Today, thanks to indie publishing, I can revise it the way I want and publish it myself.

Progress.

My critique group read this book years ago and provided helpful comments, but we were all less experienced—or rank amateurs—back then. I’m submitting revised pages to them again, and getting good feedback once more.

The revisions are moving smoothly. I’ve cut about twenty percent of the text (too much description) and beefed up the conflict. The cuts sharpen the story and bring it to a better length for a comedy; I’ll probably have to add a reconciliation scene. We’ll see. Otherwise, I hope that I can pretty much skate to the finish on this one and finally put it out.

My most obvious mistake when I wrote this so long ago is that I shift the point of view of my characters way too frequently—sometimes from paragraph to paragraph or even from sentence to sentence. In revision, I’ve found many of these, but inevitably I miss a few. My two critique partners are having fun seeing who finds the most when they reread the pages.

Another frequent mistake is that I overuse two words: “look” and “just.” These days when I work on a new project, I do a search-and-replace on these and remove or rewrite them. But back then I didn’t see that error.

In our last critique session, someone pointed out that I had three occurrences of “look” in two paragraphs. When I got down to making the changes, I did a search and found 341 occurrences of “look” or its variations in 137 pages of single-space text.

Yikes!

I probably have more reason to use the word “look” in this manuscript than any other, because my heroine glues her eyes shut in it. Still. That’s probably about 250 occurrences that have to go. It’ll take a while, since you can’t just substitute “gaze” or “stare.” But that’s part of the fun of writing a book.

I never got the edit letter from the publishing company years ago, and I sometimes wonder what changes the editor would have wanted me to make. I’m sure that she’d have called out the POV switches and the overuse of “look,” among other changes.

What about you? Do you have tendencies you have to watch out for? Anything you’ve trained yourself not to do anymore?

11 thoughts on “Kay: Out with the Old

    • When I researched this years ago, it turns out that the Super Glue company had a whole tab on their web site called “Gluing Your Eyes Shut,” or words to that effect. Who knew it was a thing? At the time I wrote ithe event in the book, I thought it would never happen.

      This time around, my critique partner didn’t believe it, either. She thought butter would release the glue. So she wrote in the margin, in ink, “She could use butter.” And then she told me she decided to look it up, and—nope. The web site still says there are no solvents for dissolving glue around the eyes. I still am astonished that this happens so often that they put it on their web site.

      • Oh my goodness. But I could totally see it happening to me. Glue something and absent-mindedly rub my eyes . . . . I daren’t use super-glue!

        I believe your eyes unglue naturally as the skin cells shed, but that’s not instant. Wow. What a nightmare.

  1. I have the same problem with ‘look’ and yes, you can’t always change it to ‘gaze’ (also a repeater) or ‘stare’. Sometimes I wonder how my vocabulary has shrunk so much in the past years.

    I have a problem with stomachs, myself – whenever my characters go through an emotion, I find their stomachs doing a variety of acrobatics – somersaulting, curling, dropping, clenching, flipping, turning over…. it’s certainly one of the ones to watch out for, for me!

  2. I have a problem with ‘just’ and ‘so’.

    And I agree with Michaeline about burying the lede. I recall years ago that Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband glued his eyes shut with superglue – thought it was eyedrops.

    • Oh, so THAT’s how you do it. In the book, my heroine is super gluing the table supports back in place, and her kid opens the door, and the breeze blows in, and her hair gets in her eyes, and she rubs it away with glue on her fingers. It seemed convoluted, but after I read on the Super Glue site that people glued their eyes shut all the time, I thought anything was possible. But eyedrops! It’s a miracle he didn’t get any in his eyes and hurt his vision.

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