Today’s guest blogger is fellow Oak Tree Press author Janet Greger, who writes as J. L. Greger. Although she is no longer a professor in biology at the University of Wisconsin, Janet likes to include tidbits of science in her medical thrillers/mysteries, Coming Flu, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Ignore the Pain, and Malignancy.
At the beginning Malignancy, men disguised as police officers shoot at Sara Almquist twice in one day. The real police suspect Jim Mazzone, a drug czar who has tangled with Sara before, will order more hits on Sara. Thus when colleagues in the State Department invite Sara to arrange scientific exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba, she jumps at the chance to get out of town and to see the mysterious Xave Zack, who rescued her in Bolivia. Maybe, she should question their motives.
Janet’s two great passions are Bug and travel. Bug is her Japanese Chin and the inspiration for the Bug in her novels. She’s included her travels to Bolivia and Cuba in Ignore the Pain and Malignancy. When she’s not traveling, Bug and she live in the American Southwest.
You can visit her website at www.jlgreger.com.
On Janet’s previous visit to my blog, April 17, 2013, her post was titled “Eat! Eat! Die! Die!” and discussed her then newly published book Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, not a new method way to slim down. On this, her return visit, she is discussing the process she uses to avoid “bad” words in her latest book to feature the sisters, Malignancy. And once again, her title “Avoid Ten ‘Bad’ Words” is a bit misleading.
I admit I use all ten of these words. But they’re not what you’re thinking. For the words you’re probably guessing, you’d have to check out Talk Dirty Yiddish. For Janet’s list of taboo words, read just about any novel.
Avoid Ten “Bad” Words
Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m not talking about curse words. I mean the words many of us use too much. These words add blandness and not clarity to our writing.
My thriller Malignancy was published in October. That means I’ve spent the summer and early fall editing the adventures of my heroine epidemiologist Sara Almquist as she tries to escape the clutches of a drug lord and accepts a precarious assignment arranging scientific exchanges in Cuba. I guess all Sara’s risky behaviors put me in the mood to be foolish enough to “give” advice on editing.
The “bad” words are: that, just, very, really, still, some, perhaps, maybe, which, and since. What words do you want to add to the list?
When I finish the first draft of a novel, I like to tidy the draft up a bit before I edit the text for gaps in logic, bungled time sequences, and unnecessary characters.
I do a “find and replace mission” that includes the following steps.
- Eliminate my “bad” words. I think the “Find” option in the Window’s Edit list is my best friend during this process.
- Convert sentences from a passive into an active voice.
- Replace weak verbs with action verbs.
- Change run on sentences spliced with a comma into two sentences or one sentence spliced appropriately.
- Find “-ing” words and evaluate their usage.
- Look for common misspellings missed by Spell Check, such as form for from.
This process is a humbling experience and keeps me from rhapsodizing about my “beautiful prose.” Then I look for gaps in logic.
I start with the easiest task first. I reduce the number of named characters. Any name, mentioned less than ten times in a manuscript, I delete completely or at least eliminate the character’s name. Now I’m a bit contrary on this point. Some authors reduce the number of named characters in their books so much, I know who the villain is after the first thirty pages because he or she is the only extraneous named character. In other words, I like a few “red herrings” in my books.
I check time sequences. I can’t be the only author who discovers Character A knows something before it occurs. At this point, I often delay or reduce clues to sharpen the suspense in my thrillers.
I repeat the find and replace mission (mentioned above) because gremlins creep in and reinsert problems.
As I do second, third, and fourth edits of the novel, I look at manuscript in different ways. My dog Bug thinks I’m being strange when I read dialog out loud, but it helps me smooth out conversations.
After I think the manuscript looks pretty good, I print it out. I always find hundreds of points that I didn’t notice on the computer screen.
Next I send the manuscript to a professional editor. Then I pray that together we’ll catch all the errors, but know I’ll probably catch more errors when I read the galley for my novel. Somehow errors not obvious in my typed manuscript glare at me from the printed galley.
Now it’s your turn. What do you look for when editing your work? I hope you’ll read Malignancy, and find I did a good job of editing it.