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.

Pirates

Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesay, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17…and go back to the time when my father kept the Admiral Benbow inn and the brown old seaman with the sabre cut first took up his lodging under our roof.

~Robert Louis Stevenson from “Treasure Island”

As I mentioned in today’s other post, I’m going to try to start reading Treasure Island. Partly because I have a thing for first lines and partly because I haven’t had the chance to start reading this work, I’ve given you the first sentence of the novel.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. Oxford: Macmillan, 2005. Print.

Nature

This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight though every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself.

~Henry David Thoreau from “Walden: Or, Life in the Woods”

http://ibreathewords.com/2014/01/10/writing-prompt-4/

Beautiful Words

Monday night, I started rereading Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale because I found it while organizing my bookshelves and remembered how much I adored it when I read it in high school. They’re actually creating a movie based on this book this year, so part of the reason I’m reading it again is so I’ll be ready to compare the movie to Helprin’s gorgeous words.

All it took for me to remember why I loved this book so much was reading the prologue. I think Helprin could write a story about dirt and I would read it. But, he didn’t write a story about dirt; he created a spellbinding masterpiece. I’ll talk more about Helprin and the book I’m reading when I do a review of it. For now, here are some of his words for you to enjoy.

A great city is nothing more than a portrait of itself, and yet when all is said and done, its arsenals of scenes and images are part of a deeply moving plan. As a book in which to read this plan, New York is unsurpassed. For the whole world has poured its heart into the city by the Palisades, and made it far better than it ever had any right to be.

But the city is now observed, as it often is, by the whitened mass in which it rests–rushing by us at unfathomable speed, crackling like wind in the mist, cold to the touch, glistening and unfolding, tumbling over itself like the steam of an engine or cotton spilling from a bale. Though the blinding white web of ceaseless sounds flows past mercilessly, the curtain is breaking…it reveals amid the clouds a lake of air as smooth and clear as a mirror, the deep round eye of a white hurricane.

At the bottom of this lake lies the city. From our great height it seems small and distant, but the activity within it is apparent, for even when the city appears to be no bigger than a beetle, it is alive. We are falling now, and our swift unobserved descent will bring us to life that is blooming in the quit of another time. As we float down in utter silence, into a frame again unfreezing, we are confronted by a tableau of winter colors. These are very strong, and they call us in.

~Mark Helprin, from “Winter’s Tale”

Helprin, Mark. Winter’s Tale. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 1983. Print.