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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Manuscript Editing and THAT Tenth Level of Hell


If my Cliff Notes version of Dante's Inferno is correct, then it has been asserted THAT there exist some nine levels of hell. He's got limbo and greed and anger and fraud in there, but somehow, he managed to leave one out, and I'm surprised since he was apparently a writer of some sort (at least that's what it says in the paragraph on the back of the three paged version I own).

Did I really double check my formatting before I clicked the print button? Did I???
The missing tenth level must be assigned to manuscript editing, or manuscript post editing, when you think that you're finished with something. It's only then when paranoia sets in and you begin to second guess every decision about punctuation and words and how you write.

I'd like to thank my good friend, Mr. Jack Kraven, for my most recent bout of writer's paranoia. A few weeks ago, Jack mentioned how he hated the word "that." I casually dismissed his expression of disdain for such a common word as the utterances of a man who's spent too much time alone in the back country of Montana, and is (following a long winter) probably standing (or teetering rather) upon the precipice of sanity.

THAT
THAT
THAT
THAT
THAT
THAT
THAT
THAT
THAT

I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you, to Jack, for having planted the tiniest seed inside my head. A seed, oddly enough, that would grow and flourish as I edited until I finally awoke at 4:00am this morning, wide eyed, and wondering if I didn't use "that" too often. I'd never thought about that. Is that the that that has been holding me back from ascending to that fabled land of literary greatness? Is that the that that has garnered so much attention amongst literary agents in the way of spammed out rejection form emails?

Buy THAT Book Here!
This morning as I sat down to edit my new novel, I couldn't stop thinking about that. I went back and looked at Silence of Centerville again and discovered that there are indeed unnecessary that's in that book. In a panic that could only be described as a that attack, I began to work my way through the original files and edit out those thats. I had set aside my editing of that new book, and the writing of that even newer one to look at the thats that plagued that older title. It was only when I had made it all the way to Chapter 3 that I finally said, "f@ck that."



A book is never perfect. Words strung together to form thoughts and ideas and stories can never be complete, for as the writer grows, his or her style changes. It might improve. It might simply be different than it was a decade or even a year before. But as an independent author in the modern era where editing a new version of a book can be done with the push of a button, it's simply too tempting to keep polishing and chiseling at your words. And it's highly possible that using search tools to seek and destroy your usage of a single word or term can have a negative effect on the original flow and cadence of a work. 

I yam what I yam.
I want to get my new novel completed so I can write the next one. If that means living with all of my thats then that is what I must do. I will try and work on my thats in the future. That, you can be sure of. But that, and all my other thats that are out there, that are in Silence of Centerville, are here to stay. And that's a fact, Jack!

Now get off of my damned blog and go write something for Christ's sake. The world needs more thats in it.

Official THAT tally:
Silence of Centerville    1,494
Work in Progress         1,433 
   
Thanks for Reading, Everyone!

4 comments:

  1. As soon as your post went up I re-read Silence of Centerville (not really. you nuts? I don't read that fast.) I only found one That that I would not have used. But I found 367 Which-es, which I understand is a word Jack Kraven loathes. For a small fee I'll tell you where they are and which which should stay and which which should be changed to that.

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    1. I found a any number of thats which should not have been included. Which that stays or that which that goes is not the point which that blog post seeks to make. It's that we must learn to live with that which we have done, and move forward into...God damn it, Hurley. Why in the hell would you say something about another word like that? That isn't right at all. Which. F@ck. Now I'll have that stuck in my head now. You're a sick man.

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  2. I read an article once where a list of common words were posted, some to be used sparingly, and others were NEVER be used in prose. According to this article That, that, that that is one of the words listed under, never under any circumstance use these words in prose. I find that impossible. Words listed under, limited use only, were: but, suddenly, had...among others. I was pulling my hair out by the time I finished reading the article!

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    1. The devil really is in the details. And the words are the most devilish detail of them all. And the worst of it is how much these things stay with us and shape us and... drive us to the brink of insanity.

      As always, thank you for reading, Vashti. I appreciate the comment!

      Buzz

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