Thursday, June 02, 2022

Things I Watch For In Queries: double-writing


I've got fresh eyeballs on your queries so I see the double-writing right away.


You might miss them this kind of thing  cause you're so familiar with your own work.



She grasped my hand in hers.


Unless she's Edward Scissorhands, the default is she's grasping things with her hands.


Only if she's using her feet, or her teeth would you want to say what she's using to grasp.


If it's the norm, you probably don't need to say it.


Suggested revision: she grasped my hand.




He was lying prone on the floor

Revision: He was  prone on the floor

OR: He lay on the floor


Lying prone: you don't sit or stand prone, no? Thus you don't need both lying and prone. Prone does the job.



She took a deep breath, inhaling  the fresh air

Revision: She inhaled the fresh air.

OR: She took a deep breath of fresh air



you don't need both inhaling and took a deep breath. They mean pretty much the same thing.



The moment when Felix Buttonweezer realized his wife Betty was a shapeshifter.

Revise: The moment when Felix Buttonweezer realized his wife Betty was a shapeshifter.



How you avoid this: reading the query and pages out loud will help.


And sometimes, yes, you need the extra word.

She crouched down to give Felix CPR.



Putting each sentence on a new line will help because it slows you down.


Example of a new line for each sentence drawn from Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan (one of two novels I think is a perfect book.)


Doug MacRay stood inside the rear door of the bank, breathing deeply through his mask.


Yawning, that was a good sign.


Getting oxygen.


He was trying to get amped up.


Breaking in overnight had left them with plenty of downtime to sit and eat their sandwiches and goof on each other and get comfortable, and that wasn't good for the job.


Doug had lost his buzz--the action, fear, and momentum that was the cocktail of banditry.


Get in, get the money, get out.


His father talking, but fuck it, on this subject the old crook was right.


Doug was ready for this thing to fall.


Any questions?




E.M. Goldsmith said...

This is how you can tell I am in early drafts. The double writing thing. Yep. Happens a lot. I think it's because we have a picture in our writerly mind and want to convey it to our reader and we forget we already told them about the breathing thing. I chop so many words in revisions getting rid of double sentences that both say the same stuff. I like the breaking every line apart technique idea. Thank you for this. I really appreciate it. It's always fantastic to wake up to a new blog post.

Steve Forti said...

What's the other perfect novel?

Janet Reid said...

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Craig F said...

I know a work should flow, that there shouldn't be inadvertent speed reading bumps.

However, a speed reading bump can be planned and have a double negative, or double adjective for shock value, something to grab you.

Unknown said...

Janet, thanks for the novel tips. It helps to read well written novels.

Once I took a class in FOG. The simple method is to score writing: four points for functional subjects ("It was the best of times..."); one point for prepositional phrases--count prepositions; half a point for conjunctions. Per one hundred words: children's books should be six to eight; novels should be eight to twelve; and technical papers up to twenty. (Note that an English word is a preposition if and only if it heads a prepositional phrase, ref Pullum).

Most extraneous writing comes in a prepositional phrase.

Amy Johnson said...

Oooh, very useful information! Thanks, Janet. I shall try to keep it in mind, retaining it to my memory in my brain. (Quintuple-writing? More?)

Kitty said...

Does it apply to dialogue?

Les Edgerton said...

The one that bugs the bejesus out of me is when a writer writes: "He thought to himself," or, "I thought to myself." Unless it's a sci-fi novel, who else would one think to? This implies that it would be legitimate to say, "He thought to his best friend, Jim-Bob."

Dena Pawling said...

I'm with Les regarding "he thought to himself". It also bothers me to read "he shrugged his shoulders". What else do you shrug?

Les Edgerton said...

Good one, Dena. Not in this vein, but something that bothers the heck out of me is when a writer shows a character with "a single tear coursing down her cheek." I can't figure out if the other tear duct is clogged or if she's only half sad... Yuch! Sounds like a fledgling romance writer...

Donnaeve said...

No questions, but love this!

The first time I learned about this double writing had to do with the head and the hands. I still make this mistake (!) but know it (SEE IT) almost immediately. Some of the others you pointed out are subtle.

Thank you QOTKU (are we still calling you that?) for the most excellent refresher/tips.

John Davis Frain said...

Okay, legit question. You say:

"And sometimes, yes, you need the extra word.

She crouched down to give Felix CPR."

So, I assume the extra word here is "down" and I don't understand why you need it. Where else would you crouch? Seems to me it's like writing "He stood up" when you can just say "He stood."

Anyway, I thought this to Les, but he didn't mention it, so I figured I'd better bring it up myself.

John Davis Frain said...

Oh, and Prince of Thieves. WOW. I could read that again a moment after I put it down. Movie (The Town) would be great unless you compare it to the book, in which case the movie is suddenly only marginal.

Les Edgerton said...

John, I heard you thinking to me, but I was bent over at the waist and some of the words flew right by my ear so I didn't know who was speaking. Sorry...