Over lunch, while eating a sandwich she picked up from the deli up the street on her break, she pored over the work spread across her drafting table.
I am ashamed to say the above sentence was written in my most recent book. Now, in my defense, the book is currently in the editing stage. So, the good news is that I managed to catch this before it goes to print. The funny thing about this sentence is that the very day I realized it was filled with unnecessary words, I read a blog article on tips to keep an editor from cringing. I’m happy to say I read the article before I took issue with my wordy sentence, but it got me to thinking. How many more of my sentences are this cluttered?
Asking myself this question led me to seek the answer. Finding that answer in a one hundred thousand words plus novel was no easy feat. The results are both good and bad. Good news? They weren’t as many cluttered run-on sentences as I was afraid of. And since the novel hasn’t been published, I was able to address them before they saw the light of day. Bad news? There were more cluttered run-on sentences than I was hoping for. Since the novel hasn’t been published, that means I have to correct them which might lead to a delay in publication.
As I was going through my novel in search of these pesky critters, I realized something. I have a tendency to add a lot more detail than necessary to some of my sentences. Take that first sentence for example. Who cares where she got the salad from and when? Does leaving that information out of the sentence negatively impact the story? Does leaving it in help? The answer to both questions is no. The solution is to take it out.
I also discovered that I like to take what could be two, sometimes even three sentences, and make them one nice, long, flowing sentence. There were a few instances where I had one sentence paragraphs that were three lines long. I like writing which means I like words, but even I can see this is some serious overkill.
In the category of more good news, this isn’t the end of the world. It’s something I can fix which means making my stories flow better. Of course, the flip side of that coin is the realization that it took several published novels for me to catch on to this problem. Now I have to avoid rereading those novels, or I might end up crying.
A long time ago, an editor told me I was addicted to adverbs. I laughed her off until I counted how many there were. It was an eye-opener. Now, I do my best to use them sparingly. It seems I substituted one addiction for another; run-on sentences in place of adverbs.
Thankfully, I can and will do something about this. I am by no means convinced I am the best writer I can be. As long as I write, there will always be room to improve my craft. If I can overcome my adverb habit, I can beat this too!