From Love Scenes to Cliffhangers: Scrubbing My Prose in 30 Days, Report One

One of my June goals is doing a daily challenge to (1) edit better and (2) post more blogs. I hope to do both in scrubbing my prose and reporting how I answered the challenge here every Sunday.

Challenge One: a love scene without “eyes” or “gaze”

I resolved this in my YA Contemporary novel. Fortunately I hadn’t used gaze, but sadly I did use eyes twice. I substituted face for the first eyes and a warm brush of her fingertips for the second eyes. Hey, this is making me think!

Challenge Two: without any -ing verbs.

jack fell down copyI decided to go big on this and scrubbed the first 62 pages of Egrets, I’ve Had a Few, the sequel to my mystery novella Jack Fell Down. I wish I’d tallied the number of -ing verbs I changed, because I scored a goodly number. You tell me if you see an improvement in this example.

OLD: Huffing with exasperation in the dramatic way only sixteen-year-old girls can do well, Kirsten said, “Because you told me to.”

NEW; She huffed with exasperation in the dramatic way only sixteen-year-old girls can do well. “Because you told me to.”

Challenge Three: without “should”, “could”, and “would”

I also scrubbed the same 62 pages in Egrets, I’ve Had a Few, but only found a few times I’d misused these qualifiers. I’m hypersensitive to the -oulds.

Challenge Four: write the color “blue” without saying blue.

So in Egrets, I’ve Had a Few, I only used the word blue once. Here’s how I “fixed” it.

OLD: Blue petals scattered when she planted herself in front of me.

NEW: Periwinkle petals scattered when she planted herself in front of me.

I came up with the replacement without resorting to the Thesaurus, I’m pleased to say. Blue may be the better choice, but I’ll luxuriate in the alliteration for the moment.

Last one for this pay period …

Challenge Five: a cliffhanger

I ending Chapter Five in Egrets with the following:

Except for the traffic noise and leaves rattling on the eucalyptus trees lining the vacant lot, I heard nothing till a voice thirty feet to my left shouted “Ready for a taste of hell?”

That’s it for the first five days in June. See you next Sunday!

Till then, happy reading.

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About mlknowlden

In 2011, I left engineering to write full-time. Between the years 1992 and 2011, I’ve published 14 stories with Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine that have featured the hypochondriac detective Micky Cardex and two stories that did not. The 1998 story “No, Thank You, John” was nominated for a Shamus award. Many of these stories have been included in anthologies and translated in multiple languages. With Neal Shusterman, I’ve also published a science fiction story for the More Amazing Stories anthology (Tor) published in 1998 and co-authored with Neal Shusterman an X-Files Young Adult novel (DARK MATTER) for HarperCollins in 1999 under the name Easton Royce. For Simon & Schuster in July 2012, we published an e-novella UNSTRUNG in Neal's UNWIND world. I have graduate degrees in English and Electrical Engineering.
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4 Responses to From Love Scenes to Cliffhangers: Scrubbing My Prose in 30 Days, Report One

  1. Rebecca Lang says:

    I think this is a great way of challenging yourself. I might have to steal the idea for myself. 😀

  2. dayya says:

    Good job! I’m going to do these challenges as I write. A good way to keep prose clean–even when writing a crappy first draft. Saves edit time later.

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