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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Signposts

Today is my baby brother's birthday.

It is also the day by which we Americans must file our income taxes. (Cough, cough! Hint, hint!)

These two important days happen together every year. Some years, they are also combined with Easter.

The fact that so many things happen on the same day makes it easier for the rest of the family to remember them. We always know that if it is his birthday, it is also income tax day, or if it is income tax day, it is also his birthday. None of us ever mentions which of those two facts we remembered first. LOL.

Essentially, these two days act as a reminder flag for each other, at least within my family. You can't have one without the other. They're signposts for another important thing to rem
ember. When one of them comes around, it is like a flashing neon sign: THIS IS ALSO IMPORTANT! DON'T FORGET!

As a writer, there are a number of signposts I look for within my writing.
If I see the word like somewhere in my writing, I check to be sure that whatever comes after it reads as fresh and new, not as a cliche that we've read a thousand times before.
When I read body cues for emotion, I read around them for other context clues, to be sure the emotion is coming across clearly. (I also check to be sure that my characters are doing something other than just twitching, but that is neither here nor there.)

Adverbs ending in -ly are a signpost telling me to examine the verbs in the sentence to see if any of them could be more specific, stronger, more concise.

Words written in all caps, or finding XXX in my writing are signposts that I was unsure of the precise word (or completely ignorant, as the case may be). These tell me I need to do more research or search for the proper word. Or, sometimes they tell me that I need to find something within my research that I know is there, but I didn't want to take the time to look for it while writing.

We all have signposts, both in life and in our writing. What are some of the signposts you look for as you're going back through your writing?

Catherine Gayle, Baroness Blithe

P.S. Have you filed your taxes? Don't say I didn't remind you.

6 comments:

  1. Our taxes are filed. Yay! About seven years ago on April 14th, a Saturday, I was bawling in our kitchen, not believing we could possibly owe money on an internship salary. And we had a new baby and at least two months of my lost salary from relocating. We found our accountant working on a Saturday and he really saved me from a breakdown. We've had him ever since.

    But, that's not what you really asked. LOL. Sorry, I think the whole tax thing just retraumatized me. Anyway, I look for filter words, such as watched, looked, etc. I also have a lot of warm cheeks. Not so much twitching. Oh, and I search for the phrase at her or at him. Most of the time I find it isn't needed. :)

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  2. When I am editing, I look for blocks of writng where no dialogue exist. I also look for id tags that can be replaced with action or thoughts. I try to eliminate most "he asked or she asked" after a question mark, and I tend to have my characters grinning or glaring too much, so I try to go back and think about fresh ways to convey these emotions.

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  3. I look for sentences beginning with "It". I can usually make those stronger. Thanks for the great tips. I'm running off to double check my ms now. :)

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  4. Samantha, my mom always remembers the April 15 that my brother was born mainly because she was so glad she mailed the taxes off in the morning. If she'd waited until the afternoon, it wouldn't have been done - because she was in labor!

    Julie, that's a great signpost to watch for. Too many large chunks of narrative can drag a story down.

    Gail, I'll have to start looking for "it" at the start of sentences too. You're right, those sentences can almost always be made stronger. Sentences starting with "that" would probably fall into the same category!

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  5. When I see Tags, it screams "your it". In other words, fix. I hate to see a lot of he said, she said. But sometimes that is how my drafts come out because I want to get the dialogue in my head down and then I go back and put action with words so you know who said what without me announcing "she said".

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  6. Oh, no!

    You just reminded my I have taxes!

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