Too Many Thats

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.

this-that-these-and-those

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.

My Notebook Editing Process

I mentioned last week that I’ve come up with a new way to organize the scenes of my novel so that I can see what needs work. With the hope that it will be helpful, I’ve decided to break it down for you here.

So far, I’ve been writing down recaps of each scene with as few words as possible and then writing down little captions of what point in time they’re taking place. If said point in time needs to be fixed or if I think the scene needs series work, I’m going to write myself a note saying so. Later, once I have all of the scenes’ captions written out, I’m going to work on numbering them–figuring out what order they should be in and what chapters they should be in.

Maybe I should have been giving each scene an entire page instead of just three blank lines. Too late for that!

Anyways, I’m also planning on adding more sections to this notebook, including one for the characters that includes their description and character traits. There will more than likely be a section dedicated to scene too.

As of right now, the pen colors are:

  • Black –> Initial scene recap
  • Purple –> Points in time that the scene takes place
  • Red –> Notes about major editing fixes that need to happen

Those are the only colors that I’ve needed so far. Eventually, there will more than likely be at least one more color with the purpose of marking the order and chapter of every scene.

Slightly Random Note

I mentioned before that I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d spend the money on keeping this domain for another year. Well, while in the spirit of Christmas shopping over the weekend, I decided to buy it for myself.

Lord Chesterfield

Take care of the minutes, for the hours will take care of themselves.

I feel like this quote by Lord Chesterfield, a man who was born in 1694, really applies to what I’ve been talking about these past couple of weeks. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with time management, and focusing on what I’m going to do for a couple of minutes instead of the stretching hours, days, years ahead makes it much easier to focus and get things done.

This is something that I learned during NaNoWriMo because of my success in focusing on the 1,667 words every day instead of the 50,000 words that I ultimately had to have written.

Frank, Leonard Roy. Random House Webster’s Quotationary. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.