Apr 15 2016

#atozchallenge M is for Manuscript Revision by @hollylisle #WriteTip for Weak Words

The craft of fiction writing is the Theme for the #atozchallenge 2016 on the blog of @JLenniDorner
Click for my theme details
 

26 writing reference books containing 26 lessons leads to a month of #WriteTips and writing samples




http://hollylisle.com/one-pass-manuscript-revision-from-first-draft-to-last-in-one-cycle/



M is for “Manuscript”
Book: One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle by Holly Lisle
@hollylisle
My dice roll: 6 (ebook/pdf location out of 8)
Lesson: Weak Words

Is your scene full of weak words? The lesson recommends looking for:

  • Is
  • Was
  • Were
  • Very
  • Passive Voice
  • Adjectives
  • Adverbs
  • “To be” verb forms
  • Change “He was tall,” to “She looked up at him. And up. And up.”

*note* This eight-page pdf was reprinted from Holly Lisle’s Vision: A Resource for Writers, Issue #9 (May-June, 2002). I believe I got my copy from a contest, newsletter, or as part of a class.

When figuring out the “to be” verbs, I referred to this article: http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/how-to-eliminate-to-be-verbs-in-writing/

I’m going to use my opening scene from Fractions of Existence.

line break

It was the smell that made him do it. Xavier’s nose was attacked as he stepped out of his Manhattan office building onto the bustling sidewalk of Madison Avenue. It wasn’t a food smell, or one found in nature, or even a kind of perfume. The athletic, agile man tripped twice as he swam through the crowd to find the source of this scent. Not the hotdog cart. Not the bouquets of flowers. Not the tall, unnaturally blonde woman wearing Chanel No 5 (and little else). It was a scent he knew but couldn’t place. The smell was like a migraine trigger, except his head didn’t ache with pain.

Xavier begged pardon, passed, and pushed into a crowd of tourists. They were the horridly easy to spot kind: twelve people in matching neon pink tee-shirts, all carrying cameras and paying more attention to the sights than their valuables. He had to reach the source of the smell. Urgency whipped him into a frenzy. He moved beside a short young lady and sniffed her.

“What are you doing?” She skewed her face. Never had Xavier been on the receiving end of such a look, as if he were a madman invading her personal space.

As he sniffed her again he realized, indeed, he was just that.

“There’s a scent about you I can’t quite place.” A flash blinded him as he spoke. “I think it’s your scarf. Where did you get it?” He rubbed his eyes.

A portly woman shoved against Xavier while reaching for the young lady’s arm. “I’ve got his picture, Ophelia. The crazies are well-dressed here, aren’t they?” She turned to the others. “All part of the experience at Bella’s Tours.”

“You have lovely accents.” Xavier bowed. “Northern Mississippi?” He faked a smile when there was no answer. “Sorry for the intrusion. I am Xavier Doyen, of…”

The portly woman poked him with her thick middle finger. “These here are my group. You best be movin’ along. Go on.” She motioned with her chin.

Xavier’s nostrils flared. He glanced at the portly woman. “No.” Xavier’s vibrant green eyes blazed, flecks of blue flaring in bright swirls of burning white. The woman grabbed her neck. Her face went beet red. Xavier shut his eyes, shook his head, and cleared his throat. The woman doubled over, water spewing from her mouth. He turned away.

“I need to know where you got your scarf.” Xavier touched Ophelia’s chin to redirect her gaze. The coughing woman stole the attention back. Xavier pulled three bills of a large denomination from his wallet. The young lady eyed the money. Her hand shook as she took the cash.

“My cousin, Irving, found it at a secondhand store. See the purple hearts knit in with the black waves? I had a dream once like that.” Ophelia unwound the scarf from her neck. “Never imagined someone would want to buy the scarf off my neck. Are you a fashion designer? Will it end up on a runway?”

Xavier stepped away from the offered scarf. “Secondhand store,” he repeated her answer as he shook his head.

“Yes. He stopped at one by the beach when he was in California. I’m afraid I don’t know more.” She pressed the scarf to his hand. “It’s yours. It isn’t worth near as much as you gave me. A perfectly good scarf though. Then again, I don’t know much about fashion.”

“No. I couldn’t possibly keep it.” Xavier imaged the smell driving him to this sort of bizarre behavior every day. He looked to the portly woman. She was shivering and asking members of her tour group to take her pulse. “Do any of you have some water?”

Ophelia pulled a water bottle out of her bag. The label, featuring pictures of the statues of Atlas and Prometheus, caught his attention.

“A water bottle depicting man’s teacher of fire and the Titan for whom our nearest ocean is named. Ingenious,” Xavier remarked.

“I bought it at Rockefeller Center.” Ophelia pointed in the direction from which her group had come. “They have statues there that look like the pictures on the bottle.” She spoke slow and clear, in the tone one uses when stating a fact that should have been obvious.

Xavier sighed. Millions of people walk by silent Titans every day, without a single thought about them.

He poured a few drops on the corner of the scarf, then held it in his hand and concentrated. The drops revealed dozens of memories to his mind. Nothing of any use, nothing that explained the scent. His fingers pulled away just as one final memory came through. Though fuzzy, it was all the proof he needed. The missing member of his kind was out there. She had worn this scarf.

Xavier eyed the drop on the tip of his finger. There was a chance now, a hope of preventing the apocalypse. He cradled the precious water drop. “Thank you,” he said to Ophelia before he walked away.

“You’re sure you don’t want the scarf?” She called after him, but he vanished into the crowd. Just one more sardine of the sidewalk.

55 weak words

line break

The smell caused him to act out of character. Xavier’s nose suffered from the attack as he stepped out of his Manhattan office building and into the five o’clock crowd of the Madison Avenue sidewalk. The smell did not match a food, or one found in nature, or even a kind of perfume. The man’s biceps flexed when his dancer’s reflexes failed as he tripped twice while swimming through the crowd to find the source of this scent. Not the hotdog cart. Not the bouquets of flowers. Not the woman at his eye-level, with hair in need of another bottle of bleach, wearing Chanel No 5 (and little else). He knew the scent but could not recall from where or what. The smell took over his brain like a migraine, except his head didn’t ache with pain.

Xavier begged pardon, passed, and pushed into a crowd of twelve. Easy to spot tourists in matching tee-shirts, all carrying cameras and paying more attention to the sights than their valuables. He had to reach the source of the smell. Urgency whipped him into a frenzy. He moved beside one in a scarf and sniffed her.

“What are you doing?” She skewed her face. Never had Xavier been on the receiving end of such a look. Only a madman invading personal space deserved such an offensive expression.

As he sniffed her again he realized, indeed, an invading madman described his current state.

“There’s a scent about you I can’t quite place.” A flash blinded him as he spoke. “I think it’s your scarf. Where did you get it?” He rubbed his eyes.

Another woman shoved against Xavier while reaching for the lady’s arm. “I’ve got his picture, Ophelia. The crazies are well-dressed here, aren’t they?” She turned to the others. “All part of the experience at Bella’s Tours.”

“You have lovely accents.” Xavier bowed. “Northern Mississippi?” He faked a smile. Neither answered him. “Sorry for the intrusion. I am Xavier Doyen, of…”

The woman poked him with her thick middle finger. “These here are my group. You best be movin’ along. Go on.” She motioned with her chin.

Xavier’s nostrils flared. He glanced at the woman. “No.” Xavier’s vibrant green eyes blazed, flecks of blue flaring in bright swirls of burning white. The woman grabbed her neck. Her face went beet red. Xavier shut his eyes, shook his head, and cleared his throat. The woman doubled over, water spewing from her mouth. He turned away.

“I need to know where you got your scarf.” Xavier touched Ophelia’s chin to redirect her gaze. The coughing woman stole the attention back. Xavier pulled three bills of a large denomination from his wallet. The lady eyed the money. Her hand shook as she took the cash.

“My cousin, Irving, found it at a secondhand store. See the purple hearts knit in with the black waves? I had a dream once like that.” Ophelia unwound the scarf from her neck. “Never imagined someone would want to buy the scarf off my neck. Are you a fashion designer? Will it end up on a runway?”

Xavier stepped away from the offered scarf. “Secondhand store,” he repeated her answer as he shook his head.

“Yes. He stopped at one by the beach when he was in California. I’m afraid I don’t know more.” She pressed the scarf to his hand. “It’s yours. It isn’t worth near as much as you gave me. A good scarf though. Then again, I don’t know much about fashion.”

“No. I couldn’t possibly keep it.” Xavier imaged the smell driving him to this sort of behavior every day. He looked to the woman who had interrupted. She shivered as she asked members of her tour group to take her pulse. “Do any of you have some water?”

Ophelia pulled a water bottle out of her bag. The label, featuring pictures of the statues of Atlas and Prometheus, caught his attention.

“A water bottle depicting man’s teacher of fire and the Titan for whom our nearest ocean is named. Ingenious,” Xavier remarked.

“I bought it at Rockefeller Center.” Ophelia pointed in the direction from which her group had come. “They have statues there that look like the pictures on the bottle.” She spoke slow and clear, in the tone one uses when stating a fact that should have been obvious.

Xavier sighed. Millions of people walk by silent Titans every day, without a single thought about them.

He poured a few drops on the corner of the scarf, then held it in his hand and concentrated. The drops revealed dozens of memories to his mind. Nothing of any use, nothing that explained the scent. His fingers pulled away just as one final memory came through. Though fuzzy, it provided the proof he needed. The missing member of his kind existed somewhere. She had worn this scarf.

Xavier eyed the drop on the tip of his finger. A chance, a hope of preventing the apocalypse, all due to one memory. He cradled the precious water drop. “Thank you,” he said to Ophelia before he walked away.

“You’re sure you don’t want the scarf?” she called after him, but he vanished into the crowd. Just one more sardine of the sidewalk.

21 weak words

line break
I left some of the weak words that I feel bring clarity.

Does the scene feel stronger to you? Would you cut more or less words? Have you ever done this exercise?

line break

“What are you doing?” She skewed her face. Never had Xavier been on the receiving end of such a look. Only a madman invading personal space deserved such an offensive expression.

What might be a better way to phrase “skewed her face” for this image

What might be a better way to phrase “skewed her face” in this case?

line break

Spring Fling Sign Up




Rafflecopter Giveaway link in coffee cup image from @JLenniDorner

Socialize online with J Lenni Dorner:

@JLenniDorner on Twitter WhatAreThey on Facebook pages Author J Lenni Dorner on G+ JLenniDorner on Pinterest Follow J Lenni Dorner on Tumblr Find J Lenni Dorner on AboutMe Connect with J Lenni Dorner on LinkedIn
Author page of J Lenni Dorner on Amazon Author J Lenni Dorner on Smashwords friend J Lenni Dorner on Goodreads Nanowrimo buddy J Lenni Dorner Networked Blog @JLenniDorner Linky Followers @JLenniDorner Bloglovin

Blogging from #AtoZChallenge April 2016
@JLenniDorner is in space 20 on the A to Z challenge 2016



Featured Share of the Day: Have goals? Need encouragement? This blog hop is for you!Monthly hop to support anyone with goals and blog.
line break

Winner of the @JLenniDorner super secret bonus prize is @lexicalcreation

Congratulations to @lexicalcreation JEN for winning the SUPER SECRET BONUS PRIZE from one of the giveaways that just ended on this blog. Be on the lookout for this little dragon!
Ooak dragon necklace by ARAartisticcreations

35 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. This post is definitely helpful with ideas on how to strength a piece.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Karnika on April 15, 2016 at 3:31 AM

    Wow! That was an awesome post. I often though about how they come up with perfect sentences, now I know it is an iterative process. I sure learned somethings here.
    Thanks for sharing it.
    Cheers!
    Karnika has this post to share We The MillennialsMy Profile
    Find on Twitter:

    1. Glad it helped.

  2. This is fantastic, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I am doing some major editing this afternoon and now I know exactly what I am looking for. Thanks so much for sharing this, the examples you are providing really make the tips clear.
    Debbie
    Find on Twitter:

    1. Glad it could help!

  3. Good tips! Visiting from atoz
    Find on Twitter:

    1. Thanks for dropping in.

  4. My manuscripts definitely have an adverb infestation. I always have to go back and weed them out later… 😀

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    The Multicolored Diary
    MopDog
    Find on Twitter:

    1. Funny how what we accept as normal in regular conversation, we want no part of in our books.

    • Juneta on April 15, 2016 at 10:27 AM

    Great post.,
    Happy A to Z
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit
    Juneta has this post to share The Black Orchid by Author Celine JeanJean Steampunk AdventureMy Profile
    Find on Twitter:

    1. Thanks

  5. Darnn English! How can it have so many words that are weak! I’m at a loss as to how to capture that poor girl’s facial quirks. I’ll leave that to another person.
    Find on Twitter:

    1. Thanks for coming by and looking!

    • JEN on April 15, 2016 at 10:52 AM

    Wahoo! Thanks, JL!

    And on the perfect post, too. I recently taught eighth graders the value of vivid verbs and showing instead of telling.

    While there is a place for weak words in first drafts and maybe blog posts (I purposely left some in my A to Z), it’s important to tighten and revise until each word packs a punch.
    Find on Twitter:

    1. Glad to make your day.
      -J

    • Sudha on April 15, 2016 at 11:00 AM

    Great post with clear examples. Happy A-Z!
    Sudha from
    Everyday Muse

    1. I’m glad you liked it.

  6. This is an every day struggle for me–keeping the voice active and maintaining tension. Great advice.

    #AtoZchallenge
    Meet My Imaginary Friends
    Kathleen Valentine has this post to share M is for Maggie: Blogging the #AtoZchallengeMy Profile
    Find on Twitter:

    1. Thanks

  7. I see that when you write it’s very pictorial and much is goin on. As far as the young lady changing the look on her face in a matter of distortion. I personally would put she had an expression on her face. It’s not much, but would you want to put distorted look or maybe very confused. Yes, very surprisingly confused.
    Find on Twitter:

    1. “What are you doing?” Her happy visage twisted to surprisingly confused. Never had Xavier been on the receiving end of such a look. Only a madman invading personal space deserved such an offensive expression.

      Does that seem improved to you?

  8. Sharing with an author friend! 🙂

    1. Glad to hear it.

  9. Removing all of those words would be weird. It would read awkward. I learned to go after ly words so well, my critique partners started adding them for balance.
    Alex J. Cavanaugh has this post to share A to Z Challenge – Interactive Map, Jump Drive, Knowledge Engine, Light Sail, Moon Walk, and Neutron Disruption Blaster! Plus New ReleasesMy Profile
    Find on Twitter:

    1. My editor feels the same way. She didn’t care for the second one at all. But, as I said, I just wanted to do the exercises to see what can be learned. That’s how we grow.

  10. Great points. It’s hard to stay away from those pesky weak words. 🙂
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal – Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews
    Find on Twitter:

    1. Thanks so much.

    • Rowena on April 16, 2016 at 10:48 AM

    What an interesting exercise and I wish I was more awake! I preferred the opening sentence in the first one. “It was the smell that made him do it”. That immediately sets the scene and heightens the tension for me. My kids are always saying something like that.
    I didn’t really feel either passage conveyed a sinus attack well. My husbands family are all very susceptible to sudden sinus attacks and he’s allergic to cats. He carries an asthma inhaler and tissues everywhere and I reckon he’d be sneezing uncontrollably as well. When you say his nose was attacked, for me that sounds like someone punched him.
    That said, I’m Australian so perhaps you guys say things differently.
    Hope this helps.
    xx Rowena
    Rowena has this post to share N-Oodganoo Noonuccal: Indigenous Australian Poet.My Profile

    1. Well, I suppose this is good news for me, as it wasn’t a sinus attack. A punch, of the emotional variety, would be spot on.
      Thank you so much for your comment!

    • molly on April 16, 2016 at 5:32 PM

    Passive voice and weak “to be” verbs is one my weakest areas. WONDERFUL post!
    Find on Twitter:

    1. Thanks.

  11. I’ve read other books by Holly Lisle and enjoy her instructional style.
    Weak words are always something I work on during revision. They always manage to creep in!

    Yvonne V
    Find on Twitter:

  12. This really is an incredible post. Shows how much difference you can make in a piece just by making minor changes.
    Find on Twitter:

    • DeRicki on April 21, 2016 at 10:02 PM

    Helpful and insightful. Thank you!
    Find on Twitter:

Comments have been disabled.

%d bloggers like this: