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A blog about ABOUT

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As much as I've studied to fine tune my writing over the last many years, I don't stop. Obviously, I don't run into as many new tips as I used to, but when I do I take them seriously.

One I ran into several weeks ago is to take "estimates" out of fiction.

Instead of writing "Sally stood about 15 feet away", go with "Sally stood 15 feet away". The reader doesn't care if it was 14 feet, and since we're making it up anyway, if we want 15 feet we can have 15 feet. We get rid of a filler word (some call them "connecting words"), and we eliminate equivocation.

I happened across that blog several weeks ago, and took it to heart. Over the last four days I'm doing the final read through of my WIP, and I noticed a lot of "about three minutes" ... "about sixteen hours" ... "about one hundred yards" in the first half of the manuscript. As soon as I finished the chapter I was in, I searched and zipped through the "abouts". I had "about" ;-) 240 of them. Fifteen of them turned out to be "useless estimates", and I nuked them.

They made sense when I wrote them. My character isn't taking a tape measure to a distance or counting down time on his watch, and we would say them in real life all the time. "When will you be home?" "About a half hour."

But ... except for a few specific circumstances, we don't want to parrot how we speak in how we write. Getting rid of the "abouts" made those sentences crisp ... better flow.

I was proud to find out 12 of the 15 were in the first half of the manuscript, from before I read the blog ... only three in the back end. I managed to apply it pretty well, just not perfectly. Now extraneous "abouts" are on my list to weed out in editing, along with extraneous "thats", adverbs, etc.

Graphic supplied by ME, courtesy of Fireworks. :)
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A quick thought on titles . . .and I stress 'thought'. Singular. Better: a quick 'flash' might be more accurate (I'm leaving myself room to bail out and abandon this 'quickie' down the road . . .). Look for a memorable quote that has found its way into the vernacular. FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, WHO HAS SEEN THE WIND, YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN . . . that sort of thing. Personally, I think a positive association before a potential reader/buyer has even cracked the cover, is a Good Thing.
 

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