|Photo Credit – Jan Bowman – April 2013 Hawaii|
After another round of editing this past week, I feel like a big game hunter. With a yellow highlighter in hand, I stalked “adverbs” and way-ward “adjectives” and “gerunds” in my manuscript and bagged quite a few. I also caught some “as”phrases too, although some seemed essential, as I was forced to spend a while assessing what to keep and which ones to let go.
Speaking of adverb, adjective, and gerund excesses in text brings back traumatic memories of the grammar police from our school days, doesn’t it? Okay – I see people rolling their eyes and scanning rapidly now as they decide whether to abandon this entry. But don’t go just yet, as I promise not to teach a grammar lesson on the eight basic parts of English speech and their country cousins.
But here is what I do know. Finding herds of gerunds running and cavorting in your text suggests a need for greater immediacy in the writing. For example the phrase “finding herds of gerunds running and cavorting” sounds colorful and kind of cool, but this is an example of gerunds running amuck. A little bit of this goes a long way in text.
And don’t get me started on adjectives and adverbs. I am a Southerner and I grew up under the steady embrace of fine, bright, competent adjectives, even as sturdy adverbs, wearing sensible shoes, walked purposefully and willfully over most of my passive little verbs.
All of this is to say, when you revise and rewrite a manuscript with an eye toward its possible final publication, part of the process is hunting and tracking clutter. It is difficult to toss out words, phrases and sentences that worked, at least for a while. But as writers, we must more and more be our own editors.
In William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well, the chapter on “Clutter” is a useful one because it describes the need to simplify and de-clutter.Zinsser urges writers to – “Prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything that you can throw away…”
About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan’s stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award. Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers.
A recent story was a finalist in the 2013 Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others. She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories. She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers. Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com or visit blog: http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com