Tuesday, March 21, 2023

What in the World?

 by Charlotte Hinger

I'm going through a novel, tightening wherever possible, and discovered the strangest thing. I dislike the construction of "said he" rather than "he said." But the "said he" usage is throughout my book. I have no idea how that happened, or why I didn't notice it. 

Thanks to the power of global searches, I will simply ask Word to find "said" and look at how it's used. Of course, it's better if "said" is used sparingly. That is not to say it should be followed by an adverb, but unique vivid description of action or a character tag. 

In addition to "said he" I'm annoyed by long passages of unattributed dialogue. I find too many authors think their dialogue is so skillfully done that the reader can easily tell who is speaking. 

For that matter, I don't like fiction that has no quotation marks. Writers who omit them strike me as affected in some way. 

Now, I'm worried that my previously published books have some peculiarity that I was unaware of. Are my other novels riddled with "said he"? What else have I done? I don't have the guts to look. 

Writers who care about improving become much better craftsmen over time. Even if no one is coaching them. I don't know how this happens. To be honest, I don't understand how the writing process works. All I know is that I'm better than I used to be. 

I have a contract for the book I'm revising now. Word count is limited to 105,000. That's quite reasonable. It's easy to find 10,000 words that should be deleted. What's scary is that every paragraph is just terrible. They all seem bloated. 

Does anyone ever reach the point where we get right the first time?


Anna Chapman said...

Right the first time? Where's the fun in that? We'd lose the pleasure of revising: molding and trimming and sanding and polishing---the chief enjoyments of our craft.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Anna, so sorry to be late noticing this comment. Yes, there is a lot of joy in searching for that perfect word later.