Today, at the home-made workshop, we're going to discuss language. Language is obviously a micro-editing matter. The elements it incorporates are clarity, authenticity, repetitions and so on. But more than the sum of these parts, language is voice. And voice is a learned thing. We need to liberate ourselves from acquired mannerisms, aesthetic habits, and ticks of a lifetime, in order to write freshly and truly. Voice is very personal, of course, and we don't need to kill our own voice - we just need to look at it with a slightly jaundiced eye. For instance, I like repeating words, I like quirky old-fashioned phrases from the forties, I like ending sentences with a preposition. I can use some of these sparingly, but if I make my characters have all the same ticks that I do, well - that isn't voice - that is laziness. If I don't make sure my repetitions aren't some faux finish I put on my words - that do not serve the story - then I'm affected not effective as a writer.
As I revise, I need to hunt out tired clichés - in my mad dash to get the story down, I will have written hundreds of them. That's OK. I don't beat myself up over it - I know that they are holding the place for my thoughtful revision. I need to pare down my language- not over weigh sentences with too many stunningly gorgeous words. I need to vacuum up all the tiny words that clog my sentences - that, in spite of the fact, in order to, I would argue that - and so on. I might add and so on to the list! I will be hunting the passive and flaccid word choices - the 'ing' words, the 'to be' that slow the reader and rob the phrases of the muscular robustness that I desire.
In this revision, I will look for those words that irritate me, or, conversely, that I'm over proud of. The artificial, pretentious, and gimmicky, must be banished.
Today, those of you who are revising, take a small piece of your work - a page or two - and look for those words, lurking in unedited prose, that need to go - or be changed to tighter and brighter ones.