In going through the track changes on the suspense novel, it occurred to me that a little organization would have made a lot of the edits unnecessary. How many writers don’t have a few bad habits? If you just yelled, “ME! ME!” I’m guessing you’re in rarified company. My editors (I’ve worked with three so far and am about to add a fourth) have pointed out plenty of my little foibles. On my earlier manuscripts, I used lots of dialogue tags. It was gently noted that this is BORING and that action tags are a whole lot more interesting than he/she said. So, being the overcompensater that I am, I set about writing a 90,000 word novel with only a half dozen he/she saids in the entire book. What did I do instead? In the one I’m currently editing, my characters “let out a shuddering sigh.” Okay, there’s a serial killer on the loose, so a few shuddering sighs are warranted. Probably not 58 of them! (I’m guessing at the number but it can’t be far off.)
Here’s where the organization comes in. When you use phrases to describe actions, make a list. Here are few of my favorites.
Bit her lip
Touched her arm
Blah, blah, blah
I won’t bore you with the rest. Before you hit the send button on your incredibly perfect manuscript, do a word search for your list of phrases and change them up when you discover you’ve used a few on 36 occasions.
My next piece of advice on the organizational front is to make a short character sketch every time you introduce a character. This doesn’t have to be done in advance if you’re a panster, but it will save you time in the long run. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hunted through a manuscript to see what color eyes I gave a minor character. When you add a new character, it’ll also help you avoid the same letter start. If you already have a Sue and a Sally on your list, you might not want to call the next female character Sarah. Just saying. I tend to get in first letter ruts.
So, in honor of Get Organized Month, I’m determined to spend the extra minute here and there to take a few pertinent notes when I’m writing. I KNOW it will save a lot of time and energy and headaches down the road.
For more information on my current and upcoming releases, check my website at http://www.janninegallant.com/.