With every endeavor, there are highs and lows. I’m not saying anything which is not well known. However, what you might not know is how terribly “low” most writers get when it comes to editing. In that way, I am very much like all those other writers.
Editing is tedious. I liken it to what I imagine working on an assembly line would feel like — especially when I search for my most overused words, e.g., “that” and “went.”
In my last edit of My Plus One — a novel with roughly 110K words, there were 2,234 occurrences of my well-loved, and clearly -overused “that.” If my average sentence is twenty words — as I lean toward using commas, semicolons, and em dashes — then my search for the extraneous “that”s means I had to read 2,234 of the 5,500 sentences over.
(Note: previous sentence had 35 words. In my defense, the first sentence in the second paragraph — above — is only three.)
This analysis had to be critical and careful in the application of the rules of grammar and flow. And this editing exercise was solely in search of “that;” I’d already read over the entire manuscript several times for flow, consistency, basic grammar, and typos.
So, you might ask, “How many “that”s did you manage to cull out?”
More than half. Over 1,200 “that”s did nothing but clutter up the writing.
Here’s an example of an extraneous “that” followed by an essential “that.”
When finally the idea that he was having “an event” materialized, Mitch surrendered and planted himself on the warm hood of his car. He had no interest in chiding himself in that moment though he knew this was the only time anyone had sat on the British racing green paint.
If you read the two sentences again and take out both “that”s, the first sentence is intelligible, the second one is lacking.
The absolute final review of any manuscript happens after the writer has gotten all available feedback. This is where I am with My Plus One which I wrote from September 20th to November 15th, 2014.
It makes me a little nuts that (there it is) I am still at it. The damn thing only took fifty-seven days to write. It’s beginning to feel like fifty-seven months to edit.
All I really want to do is write.
But it seems every time I do that (AHHH!), I have to go back and edit.