Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

THAT wasn't necessary

I'm a "that" person. I never realized it until I got my first manuscript back from my agent. She'd crossed out every "that" in my book! In a balloon to the right of her gazillion track changes, she told me "that" was often a word not needed and if a sentence flowed without it to take it out.

Well, that can't be right!

I need that!

Well, no I didn't, but I still catch myself using that little stinker of a word. Hey, that's just me.

Then she proceeded to show me other unnecessary words. Like "up."

She stood up. Well how else would she stand? Simply write, She stood. I felt the heat of a blush creep up my neck. I was rather embarassed that I'd made such a silly mistake. Now she's telling me editors do not like the word up being used willy-nilly, such as in She looked up at him. Well, now, how silly is that?

If my hero is six-foot-two and my heroine if five-foot-two, she's either going to look up at him during conversation or study his chest hairs. I mean...I need that up word.

Then she picked apart another darling sentence of mine--oh, I've got a zillion of 'em, folks. A slow smile spread across his face. Where else would a smile spread, my agent asked? I stared at that remark for a few beats, then I slapped my hand over my eyes. She's killing me here. Don't we often use wordy phrases simply because it sounds nice? Personally, I like the sentence like that; it brightens up my day.

Oh, but there were others. You can believe that!

He slammed the door shut became He slammed the door.

She went back downstairs became She went downstairs.

She slipped her shoes on her feet became She slipped on her shoes.

He sat down in a chair became He sat. Okay, so I'm a wordy person. So shoot me. Point taken. We allow--or at least I do--lazy habits to invade our writing. And those buggers sneak in without my realizing that they have. The dastardly devils. Evidently they sneak into others' writings, too, because now that Agent Lady has stripped every unneeded word from my manuscript, I can see them in others. I read in a story last night that a smile bloomed across her face. And I wanted to snigger and say, "Where else would her smile be, but on her face?"

What about you? Do you use words that are unneeded? I'm betting that you do.

25 comments:

Andrea Downing said...

Oh, Vonnie. I did laugh. I went through the exact same thing with my editor--although I hasten to say I took out the "thats" before she got her hands on it. But the others, like squatted DOWN. How else do you squat? Will we ever learn do you think?

Maddy said...

My list [pinned about my computer] is now so long it looks like wallpaper. Here's a sample:-
decided, would, up, down, that, being, was, only, ever, just, AS [ biggy which is why I typed it in capitals.....]
But as [oops] you say, it's only when someone points it out to you that it pops up to hit you in the face.

Vonnie Davis said...

Oh, GOOD one, Andrea. I think I'd write it that way, too. They way we think often slips into our writings. Thanks for stopping by.

Vonnie Davis said...

Maddy, I need a list, too. It's all part of the learning curve, isn't it?

Toni Lynn said...

Great post, Vonnie. For me, WAS is my love/hate word. During revisions I tend to revise sentences to elimate this word.

Beth Trissel said...

Great post Vonnie and most helpful as I sit here editing my WIP--again. :)

r a williams said...

Great post, Vonnie! Thanks for the tips!

Jannine Gallant said...

I've never had a "that" problem, but I have plenty of others. My most recent was "watched." As my editor pointed out, quit watching them do things and just do it! Great post.

Vonnie Davis said...

Oh, yeah, Toni. I totally hear you. Was is another word on my long list of things I'm trying to improve on.

Vonnie Davis said...

You're welcome, Beth. The learning curve of a writer is continual, isn't it? I know as soon as I correct one bad habit. My agent or an editor points out another.

Vonnie Davis said...

Happy Saturday r a, so glad my tips helped in some small way.

Vonnie Davis said...

Oh, yeah, Jannine. Watched is one of those filter words that pulls us out of showing into telling. Yet using them comes so easily...sigh.

LaVerne Clark said...

Okay - I'm cringing here :) I'll raise my hand (man, I was tempted to put my hand up!) and admit to those bad words too! Most of them :) Learning to write is a lifetime lesson isn't it? Sigh...

Vonnie Davis said...

Oh, LaVerne, it truly is a lifelong learning process, but that's what keeps it interesting. Think how boring writing would be if we knew it all? And, frankly, even though I know better, I still forget and use those bad boys. I'm sighing right along with you.

Lynne Marshall said...

Ack! I always have smiles spread across a face. guess i should shoot myself in the foot?

I agree with the sitting (down) and looking (up) stuff, but I don't think it's the end of the world to let a smile brighten or spread across a face. Ya know?

Ack! Doublt Ack!

Goog blog - just keep on pointing out those pimples in our writing why don't you! LOL I love you anyway. :)

Sandra Dailey said...

My biggest sin is ly. quickly, quietly, silently,...

Debra St. John said...

Great post. One of the first edits I do on a completed mss is to do a search for 'that'. I delete a good amount of them.

It's those 'to her', 'at him', 'with them' phrases that I look out for as well.

But, hey, there's nothing wrong with studying those chest hairs...could be quite sexy!
DebraStJohn

Celia Yeary said...

I write like I speak. Many people who know me say that. But in one ms, the final read stated that I began too many sentences with, "Well,...".
Well, I do, you see..that how I talk. She counted 194 times that I began a sentence--dialogue sentence with Well,...
So...ooops, another one I use too much....I was highly embarrased and try very hard to eliminate Useless Words.
Thanks for the reminder.

Willa Blair said...

Thanks, Vonnie. You're so right. Those are good habits to break.

Yep, guilty. Add 'was' to my transgressions, too. I don't worry about them in the first draft, but I I've learned to use the search function in my word processor to root those bad boys out when I start editing.

Willa Blair said...

See - there's another bad habit of mine. "...root those bad boys out" instead of "root out those bad boys..." Sigh.

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

I'm sitting here, chuckling and yes, there is a smile plastered to my face. (yes, I know. Where else would a smile be plastered?) lol

I'm like you. I like some of those more flowery sentences 'that' are not allowed.

Just so you know, I thought I was the 'that' queen.

Great post. And a smile is still plastered to 'my face.'

Calisa Rhose said...

Of course I don't Vonnie. That would just be silly-willy and I don't give in to that type of prose. Much. This is great. Had seems to be my fave word, only, just, I gots a gazillion of 'em. :lol: Love this post.

Dixie Brown said...

Am I the only one who's afraid if I banish all those unnecessary words my writing project will simply implode upon itself? Lol!!

Great post, Vonnie!

Misty Dietz said...

My lazy habitual extra words are "just" and "looked." Ack! Thanks for the great reminders to have eagle eyes on our work! :)

JoAnnAinsworth said...

Fun blog, Vonnie. When I was young, a great many directional terms were used with verbs. They had subtle differences of meaning, which are no longer relevant now that communication is stripped down to bare essentials.