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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Dreaded Gerunds

I had an early doctor's appointment today, but then I got right back to work on "Resistance" when I got home. Then I totally lost track of the clock. Yesterday, I started adding to the manuscript at page 102. It's now past 134. To be fair, I'm lifting sections out of the manuscript's previous incarnation, but since so much about the setting has changed, inserted sections must be reviewed and edited to fit.

This morning in particular, I inserted a scene and the review process made me realize how much my style has changed (improved?). I put sentences together differently now, even beyond the changes inherent in the first-person style of a different character. I noticed a lot of occurrences of "was" that could be spiffed up with better verbs that also serve to make the action more immediate and less like the telling of a story in the past. It's a subtle difference. Here's a sample:

Part of my brain was screaming warnings that this was crazy, that I was taking a terrible chance, but the other part was sort of euphoric at doing something so daring.

One sentence and the word "was" appears four times! It also comes off as a step away from the scene, like an aside to the reader, breaking up the flow. Here's the same thing as rewritten. 

Part of my brain screamed warnings about danger and taking such a crazy risk, but the other part won out with a wild euphoria over the chance to join him in his mission.

I'm not sure if that fully illustrates the point, but at least the word "was" has been banished completely and the "-ings" reduced from six to two. Too many gerunds always catch the negative attention of editors. It might seem natural in the way people normally speak, but it can become repetitious and annoying to the reader. I think the revised sentence says the same thing but in a more lyrical way and seeming less like narration. 

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