Sunday, December 19, 2010

All I want for Christmas...

Most little girls ask for dolls or a tea set for Christmas. Or, at least they did, in the days before television.

I liked dolls well enough, and we had Grandma's dishes from soap boxes to use for our imaginary parties. For those who don't remember, companies used to insert dishes in boxes of soap powder and someone who did a lot of laundry could accumulate an entire set, if she was lucky and didn't end up with seven saucers, one cup and five cereal bowls.

Maybe that's what Grandma's neighbor was doing when she hung out her laundry every day of the week and not just on Monday. "That family must be awfully clean or awfully dirty," Grandma observed.

So, having a family of dolls and enough dishes to invite the Queen for supper, I asked for books. When Christmas came and there wasn't at least on flat, rectangular package under the tree with my name on it, I was filled with disappointment. It didn't matter what else I received. If there was no book, my holiday was ruined.

After my parents discovered this, they made sure I wasn't sulking all Christmas Day while my brother and sister played with their new toys. First there were the Bobbsey Twins: Nan and Bert, the older twins, and Freddy and Flossie, the younger set. This lasted for several Christmases. Then I graduated to Nancy Drew. There were a few other, non-series books, along the years that I have forgotten the titles of.

The problem was, I read the books too quickly and often was finished by the end of the day. One year my exasperated parents presented me with the entire set (to date -- they were produced until 1955) of the Honey Bunch books. Honey Bunch was a saccharinely sweet little girl who had numerous adventures which I was privileged to share. The set lasted about a week.

I still think a book is the best gift. A few years ago I went to a book store and selected books for all my grown sons. This was not a hit. They like to read, but our tastes are too dissimilar. The only authors we share a liking for are Neal Stephenson and Clive Cussler.

Same goes for the grandkids. I spent the month before Christmas last year e-mailing back and forth with my daughter-in-law: me suggesting a book and her telling me they had already read it. I ended up sending her money to buy them gift cards a a local book store.

So -- there most likely won't be a book under my tree this year unless I go out, buy it, and wrap it myself.

Which isn't a bad idea.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

And does "it" really matter?

I'm still slogging through the WIP following Eliza Knight's editing tips. She suggests using the "find" function to locate weak or lazy words. I guess the laziest novel never-to-be-published would begin, "Yeah, well you know what I mean..." Unfortunately, this can't be accompanied by a vague armwave, so we novelists must say what we mean and not rely on the reader to guess.

I was able to substitute stronger verbs in most cases or remove an unneeded word entirely, but when I came to the word "watch" I was literally flummoxed. I'm sure Ms. Knight meant it as a verb, but in my case it was the noun that tripped me up. I had a character looking at her watch and mentioning the time in every chapter, and sometimes more than once. I deleted or rewrote these sentences while shaking my head in dismay. How did I miss this? I can't blame my critique group, who read the work in segments and undoubtedly didn't make the connection.

For the past three days I have been working on "it." "It" is a lazy word and the suggestion is replace it with the noun "it" is referring to.

Sometimes this is simple. Other times the sentence then reads like Dick and Jane. This passage:

"Have you seen my book?
"You left it over there, on the table."
"Oh, there it is. Thanks."


"Have you seen my book?"
"You left your book over there, on the table."
"Oh, there is my book. Thanks."

Or, "He picked up the book from the table and returned the book to the shelf, fitting the book between two other books, where the book belonged."

This means I have to stop and think every time the cursor highlights the word "it." Can it be replaced? Can I reword the sentence so it (the sentence) doesn't begin with "It?" Or can I leave it alone? After all, it is a very useful word and saves repetition.

I had hoped to have the editing finished by the end of this month. Now, I hope to finish this part of the exercise by Dec. 31. Alas, I still have all the adverbs to go, which means I will be searching for "ly" in January.