Polishing my novel while waiting for replies from partials (fingers crossed) , I’ve got line-editing on the brain. My pal Nate also gave me some excellent editing, and it’s got me noticing new patterns in my writing… the type of pattern I want to get rid of.
As always, these are not rules. I’m sure there are cases where these constructs are fine, necessary even. However, I’ve noticed in my own work that they tend to bulk up sentences and drag down the pace.
Agreement in dialog – This is a variation on the classic don’t-write-dialog-like-people-actually-talk rule. An offending sentence goes like this:
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s what we ought to do.”
What purpose does the “Yeah” serve? The remaining dialog makes it clear he agrees. Why not let that well-crafted response carry its own weight?
Superfluous location/timing tags – In these cases, a sentence ends with “there” or “then.”
After looking at the end-table, he set his mug down there.
Most of the time these extra tag show up when the location/time was mentioned separately before in the sentence or paragraph. As long as its clear from the context, though, that last word can go.
Doubled-prepositions – Not sure that’s exactly the right grammatical name, but I use these a lot with “back” or “down” in particular:
He put the magical item back in his bag.
Sometimes that “back” might be significant, but if it was clear he got the “magical item” out a moment ago, it’ll be clear he’s putting it back already. The word can simply vanish. Another culprit on this count is “off of” which can almost always turn into a simple “off”
Adding to my own nitpicking, read an excellent, more general blog post on this a few days ago too on the Deep Genre blog. Good stuff to keep.