I have been making more of an effort to edit Collecting Humanity. The main reason that I’ve been having trouble doing so is because I’ll edit some and then go a long stretch without looking at it. This means that I forget what I was doing, why I was doing, and at what point in the story I’m actually in.
So, a few weeks ago I decided to focus on one specific project that needed work. I tackled the word that.
What does that mean? Well, I had the pleasure of being able to take a creative writing summer session at WKU.These summer sessions were (and are?) on a rotation of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
Time for A Tangent
In 2011, I took the Visiting Writer Summer Workshop (Eng 467). I was worried that I wouldn’t have another opportunity to take it during my college career while fiction was being taught and everything I’d heard about this opportunity made it sound like something I couldn’t miss. So I signed up to learn some fiction from Professor Robert Olmstead. During this four-week course, we studied fiction by reading some great published works along with writing and editing each others short stories.
In the end, I had three new short stories to continue edit, some lessons on fiction writing, and, more importantly, I met some amazing writers who I still maintain some contact with. One lovely lady even introduced me to Doctor Who later on!
Back to That
One lesson, in particular, that has, for some reason, really stuck in my brain is the lesson on the word “that.”
Olmstead told us that, in many cases, the word “that” is superfluous. If you do a search of the word in your writing (I like using the cheat ctrl + f), you can easily determine whether or not the word is needed in a sentence. Sometimes, of course, the decision isn’t very easy. And, there are also times when the word is needed.
When you are trying to determine this, first read it as you have originally written it. Then, read the same sentence without the word “that”. You can even use your finger to cover the word if that makes it easier.
Here’s an example from Collecting Humanity:
But all his nose was picking up was the fruity bathroom soap
that Suzy had picked out.
Read the sentence with and without the word “that.” Technically, the word can remain there, but it isn’t needed.
Now, to me, this is more of a style type rule and maybe even something that I wouldn’t actually call a rule. If you like that that, then you keep that that. But, in this stage of my writing career, I’ve decided to get rid of that that.
That in My Novel
When I set out to write my NaNoWriMo novel, I decided that I was going to try my damnedest to finish this year. That’s part of why this novel needs so much editing.
I try to be more self-conscious about my use of the word that, but as I was writing Collecting Humanity, I wanted to get as many words as possible. This mean that I didn’t care about using the word “that”, and that I probably sprinkled in a few extra where I might not have usually.
After I went through and eliminated the thats that I didn’t want to keep, my word count went from over 53,000 to its current 49,728 word count.
That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? But I still have a Word document that’s over 100 pages long, which is something that I hadn’t accomplished before last year.
Due to its length, it took me several weeks to go through all of thats and decide which ones I wanted to cut. But I’m glad that I’ve finally finished editing at least some portion of my novel.