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Committing Murder: One Verb At A Time


First I want to give a big thanks to those of you who volunteered last week to read my first fifty pages. The feedback I've gotten back so far has be uber helpful. Which means I haven't spent any time on my new WIP, I've thrown myself back into fine tuning Wanderlust.
In addition to tweaking those first fifty pages, I've been going line by line murdering weak verbs and practicing step 11 of the layering I talked about yesterday, trying to find the exact right way to say what I'm trying to say. It's a tedious process, but I've almost made it halfway through the manuscript and I am feeling good about the changes. It's amazing to me how one word change can make a sentence sound so much better. Examples from yesterday's revisions:
Before: Sweat, cold and clammy, covered her back.

After: Sweat, cold and clammy, glazed her back.

Before: He pinned her with his gaze.

After: He speared her with his gaze.

Simple changes to a simple sentences, but there is something about finding that exact word I was looking for that gives me a little thrill. I just have to be careful that I'm finding a better word, not just a different word. I don't want the thing to read like a thesaurus.

Also, instead of using a thesaurus all the time, btw, I've started writing down verbs or turns of phrase that strike me as I come across them in my pleasure reading. Then after I'm done with writing a rough draft, I can Find/Search words I know I overuse like looked and walked and go to my list I've created to stimulate some ideas.

How is it that we writers have this ginormous vocabulary, but when writing the rough draft, all the damn words disappear and we suddenly have the word bank of a second grader?

Progress this week: Even though I didn't add word count to the new WIP. I did add 500 to the old one and have gone through almost a hundred pages of editing.

Plan for the coming week: Get through the whole manuscript and possibly plump up my ending. I had a few betas tell me that the story wrapped up a little quickly and they wanted to see more (at least that means they weren't like--*groan* thank God this is over.) I have room in my word count to do that, so I'm going to play around with it a bit.

Okay, and finally, a few AWARDS...

Natalie over at The Sound of Rain gifted me with the Heartfelt Award. Thanks so much!

Julie Dao over at Silver Lining passed along the Lovely Blog Award, which was, well, lovely of her. :)

And Gavin over at Insanity's Musings, sent the From Me To You award over. Thanks, you're too kind!

If you're not following these three people, you are so not hanging with the cool kids--go follow!

I am not energetic enough today to come up with specific blogs I'd like to pass these along to. My son climbed/fell out of his crib last week, so we've moved him to a toddler bed, which he thinks gives him free reign to wake up every hour crying and running around his room like a headless chicken in footie pajamas. So I'm existing on fumes today. Here he is on Halloween (as a rockstar). This is the "who me?" look he gives me when I go in his room and fuss him for getting up yet again.
*Pic removed

So for these awards, my favorite bloggers are those of you who take the time to comment on my posts and brighten my day. Therefore, if you comment today, feel free to select one of these awards for your own blog. I ♥ you all!

So what do you find yourself slaughtering when revising? Am I the only one whose vocabulary regresses to kindergarten quality while writing a rough draft?

**Today's Theme Song**
"Getting Away With Murder"-- Papa Roach
(player in sidebar, take a listen)


Reader Comments (24)

the word "was." I go through my second draft on a mission. To limit the use of "was" to once every two pages. This takes a lot of time rewriting the sentences, but it comes out much cleaner. : ) My vocabulary dwindles, but it only the first draft so I don't sweat it knowing there'll be many revisions to come. Almost always, I forget to incorporate the sense of smell, and my descriptions are filled with sight and feel.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAsh. Elizabeth

What a pleasant suprise to find your blog today Mrs. England (love your name by the way, very niiice). I am always the one that falls for romance writers and their blogs, you guys are just so cool!!

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl with a Paper Face

Definitely having to kill off some looked and walked words. A LOT of them!

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan R. Mills

Oh, and your son is adorable. :)

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan R. Mills

Ah Roni! I think the goal is to have variety and to say what we mean, but I also think that if we make everything "stand out" too brightly, with too many colorful, thought-provoking words, then our novels are a little less traversable to the modern readers! So, I think it's a matter of finding a balance.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJody Hedlund

My first drafts are always lacking in the vocab department. It's only the foundation. Once that's set we can start building and decorating! I don't worry about it :)

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeb@RGRamblings

Your son is sooo cute!

It sounds like you're doing great--it's totally okay if you're not adding word count. (I have to tell myself that when I'm revising.)

Congrats on all the awards!

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn Simon

Ash, I'm a was abuser too.

Girl, Welcome to the blog and thanks!

Susan, thanks, he's not quite as cute at 3am ;)

Jody, you're absolutely right. Too many words that stick out will scream purple prose or thesaurus junkie. I think what I'm saying is more about finding the right word, not necessarily dressing up a word just because you can or changing every "looked" and "walked" in the story because most of the time those blander verbs are the right word for that scene. But like in my example above--It was an angry scene and pinned just didn't convey the intensity of how I pictured him looking at her. But as in most things in life, moderation is the key. :)

Deb, I agree, it shouldn't be a concern in that first draft.

Dawn, thanks!

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoni @ FictionGroupie

" Am I the only one whose vocabulary regresses to kindergarten quality while writing a rough draft?"

I do the same thing. I've gotten into this really bad habit of not being able to move on to the next sentence if I don't like the verbs used in the last one. One time I spent over an hour trying to find the word that "fit". Nothing ever comes out right the first time and nothing is perfect after all, I just have a hard time accepting that fact. Haha...but I love the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment when I finished writing something.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGavin

Sorry my last post was filled with typos. I hate that. Anyhoo...

My vocabulary tends to regress as well. The moments of brilliance often happen in the middle of the night, or in the shower, when there is no hope of taking it down before it evaporates into nothingness.

You don't always need a huge vocabulary. Sometimes you just need the words to string together to create a picture in the reader's mind. For instance, last night I wrote this sentence. I feel like it conveys the moment with perfect clarity.

Twilight came, gift-wrapped in orange, pink, and purple, and tied with ribbons of silvery moonlight.

Okay...maybe it's not as brilliant as I think it is, but no big or fancy words here. No sirree.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTina Lynn

I am so painfully aware that I have a limited vocabulary I am constantly looking words up...I might have the opposite problem.

I look forward to revising...late next year.

much love

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstaceyjwarner

I love the thesaurus. Actually, I love googling synonyms. It's the little things. Simple pleasures. :)

I think your son looks just like you! (And not just because you're also a rock star.)

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber Tidd Murphy

I was wondering if I was the only writer with a second grade vocabulary during the first run! *Phew*

Your son is precious. We just did the same thing with my three year old daughter, she is doing surprisingly well. No breakouts!

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTamika:

Oh, how you make me want, no, scratch that, long, no, scratch that, PANT to revise my verbs!!! Or something of the sort. Good luck and happy revising!

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna C. Morrison

I absolutely understand you, I hate revising because I never know what right word to write. Nevertheless, I never care about the vocabulary I use in rough drafts, I know that the editing process comes later... I just focus on getting the ideas off of my head an on the paper... Tidiness comes later.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMakita Jazzqueen

I love verbs! is my best friend when I write. Congrats on your awards :) Your son is SO CUTE!

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Dao

I love playing with Wordle; best was I know for figuring out what words I use too much. And for making pretty pictures that distract me from editing. but still, useful.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGemma Noon

I love doing the verb swap murder thing. I play that game alllll the time :)

Great post Roni :)

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTabitha Bird

Congrats on your awards. You're murdering verbs? I've heard of murdering adverbs but I never thought of verbs as evil!

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie Faris

Awesome blog! I'm so jealous, I want to be an author too but don't have the patience to go through it like you do. I admire you just for that!

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOddyoddyo13

Sometimes I feel like the author of the Dick and Jane stories. 'See Dick. See Jane. See Dick and Jane.'
And then I have no idea how I'm going to complete an entire novel.
I'm glad I'm not the only one!

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

So happy you're getting good feedback. This weekend (and week) for that matter has gotten the best of me. I have read your 50 pages and I LOVE THEM...but I'm going back to re-read them and then send you your feedback. I'm going to go ahead, though, and put an order in for the full MS :) I heart Lex ;p

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

It appears that the week and weekend have gotten the best of my grammar as well. Is that a hackjob of a comment or what? Ugh.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I love reading your blog. You always come up with great ideas.

My first draft has dialogue galore with little stage direction. I am also one with the weak verbs followed by the adverb. And the word "just".
When I did my wordle on my first draft of Iron Thirst - just was as big as the characters name. I deleted 90% of them in the 2nd and 3rd drafts.

November 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAjFrey

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