The great thing about being an idiot is the “edit” feature. The meeting on the 13th was our only meeting for the month on account of the holidays. There will be no 4th Wednesday meeting.
I’ve been doing a lot of editing work lately — or rather, I’ve been doing an awful job of completing the editing work that I’m supposed to have finished by now. Either way, I’ve figured out a few things. The first is that every writer needs to keep a list of “Watch Words” posted in his or her workspace. These are words that you find yourself gravitating toward when writing, like when you review a completed five page story and suddenly realize that you have written “slovenly amputee” three times in the same paragraph. You look back, suddenly concerned, and find that your last ten stories are rife with the words “slovenly” and “amputee,” even though none of the clean cut characters are missing a limb.
Bad example, but at the top of every list should be the word “sudden.” This word is endemic to writing, published and unpublished alike. “Suddenly, Gerard Petersmith stepped into the room. The assembled bohemians regarded him with sudden alarm, their expressions suddenly shifting from complacency to the aforementioned alarm in the most redundant fashion. ‘It all happened very suddenly,’ witnesses would later explain to the police who had arrived quite suddenly, as though they had not been there five minutes earlier.” It is amazing how suddenly lives can change, things can happen, and people can change their minds or move their hands. “She looked at him with eyes so damp a toddler must have drooled into them and said, ‘I don’t know. It all seems so . . . expected?’ Gerard nodded, glad for his own complete and utter lack of spontaneity.”
After completing a story, do a word search for each of the items on your list. Send me a dollar for each overuse if you need something to motivate you.
— Derek Kagemann