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.


  1. Nice post, Sandy. Trying to find better words can sometimes make you feel like inventing a few of your own. And have you ever run across books where you can only conclude the author was trying a little too hard?

    "Have you seen my book?"
    "You left that hard cover publication over there, on the table."
    "Oh, there is my lexicon. Thanks."

  2. Oh, too funny. I hope I don't end up going that route.

  3. You're a riot Sandy! I do feel for you though. I've been looking for it all the way through this book and it's a pain, let me tell ya. But for me, worse than 'it' is and, and, and... And how do you get rid of a connecting whatever and is?

    Good luck and you'll get there!

  4. Thank goodness the list doesn't contain "and" or I'd be tearing my hair out about now.