Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Gnome

By Hannah

If I thought it would work, I would bang my head against the wall each time I sat at the computer. Perhaps in doing so, I could jar my real knowledge of how to write into place, and scare off the Writing Gnome.

You see, I love to revise. Coincidentally, of course, that’s the stage at which I find myself now. I do enjoy it. The story comes back to life as I refine it, hone it, smooth it, shine it. As a bonus, I find line editing a snap. I am a Grammar Nerd from way back. No problem there.

But who really wrote these pages I am revising?

There, did you see it? The But. I have buts all over the page, every other chapter, throughout the story. They come and go in waves. The character thinks one thing. But, he considers, it may be something else entirely. He starts to head upstairs. But he turns. But but but. That’s one thing I don’t need, those awful buts. Still, there they are.

I also am guilty, it seems, of the infamous giving and being. How did they get in there? My character can't simply look at a woman, no. He *gives* her a look. What's with that? Ha! Outtathere. Edit, edit, edit. Or this gem: He was angry. Wow. The intensity of those three words; can't you feel it? Of course not. Okay, so maybe it needs details: a furrowed brow, a kick against the baseboard, a grunt bursting forth. I know to show, not tell. Really!

What’s with me? I know how to write. I know the rules; I’ve heard authors talk about pitfalls and nodded, promising to stop falling into those pits, too. I know better. Who wrote these passages I come across? Thus, I believe there is a Writing Gnome who delights in taking out the gorgeous phrasing I must have used to start and replaces it all with this predictable drivel. Have you met this beast in your own efforts? If so, how did you expel it, exorcise it?

I suspect part of the answer is in the doing. The more I revise, the more I write, the more I think, the more I envision, I can feel the power rising up to beat back the Gnome. More experienced writers may know whether it is possible to banish it for good, or whether it is something to guard against on a constant basis. Suggestions and guidance welcome!

4 comments:

Therese said...

Oh, I'm first again! Must be an east-coast thing...

Hannah, this made me laugh--I have the "but" problem too. But (ha!), I have learned to be conscious of it while writing, so I'm able to save myself the work of cutting them out at revision.

That, I think, is the benefit of experience. Though at my current stage the predilection remains, my awareness of it has increased.

current score: Therese 2, Gnome 1

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

I'm a big "then" girl. (Better than being a big "but" girl, huh?). As in, "She looked out the window, then turned back to her book." Fascinating.

I root them out in revising, like you. I'm also getting better at catching it as I write. The biggest thing, I think, is being aware of it.

Larramie said...

But, Hannah, consider the fact that you're presenting both sides of a story or saddling the character with a dilemma with your "butting in." *G* Sigh, what a relief to know that we all have our pitfalls.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

You're lucky your characters can see both sides of a situation. "It could be this, but it could be that." Very contemplative and thoughtful.
My characters grin a lot. (People don't grin, actually, that often, in real life.) Many of my lot also shrug. I did a "find" for shrug, and I won't even tell you how many shrugs it unearthed. And I even discovered some characters "grinned" and then "shrugged." Can you imagine how we would all look if we just did that all the time?
"Just." There were dozens of justs. I zapped them all.
I adored my editing. It was like a wonderful treasure hunt, finding the extraneously flabby words that (somehow) got in there, and razoring them out. I felt powerful. I felt strong. I felt as if I was taking charge of my book and making it the way it was meant to be.
I grinned. See? I said, shrugging. It'll all be just fine.