That Vs Which: Self Editing Tip and Reason Number 501 Why it is taking so long to finish my next novel

I do not blog daily – my hat’s off to those that do – but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy enough to receive The Writer’s Daily Companion by Amy Peters as a gift several months ago. It’s like having my own daily prompt generator without the distraction that is the internet.

Somedays it’s a story prompt. Other days it is more of a workbook for improving your writing. For example, one of the Daily Companion’s lessons of the day was the difference between that and which.

It’s been a while since I published my first novel, An Uncertain Faith, and though I don’t obsess over the reviews nearly as much as I once did, I have never forgotten one review suggesting my writing could be removed if I didn’t use quite so many ‘thats.’

Imagine that.

To be clear, I was very appreciative of that particular feedback. Until I read that review, I had no idea that I said and wrote quite so many thats. Of course, now that it’s been pointed out to my attention I see that the reviewer might have a point. Then again, when you are writing books that are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words, it should be understood that a few words might just be repeated.

I also know my other half will forevermore lovingly point out future overuses of the word that – much to my dismay and embarrassment. (To be fair – I probably have it coming)

The tip is to remove the word that from a sentence. If it doesn’t make sense, the ‘that’ stays in. If it does – leave it out.

To be clear, I was very appreciative of particular feedback. This sentence doesn’t work. Therefore – hurray! I get to leave the ‘that’ in there.

Therefore, if I follow my own tip, I should edit my paragraph as follows:

To be clear, I was very appreciative of that particular feedback. Until I read that review, I had no idea I said and wrote quite so many thats. Of course, now it’s been pointed out to my attention I see the reviewer might have a point. Then again, when you are writing books that are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words, it should be understood a few words might just be repeated.

It’s better, but the next thing to obsess over is whether the word ‘which’ might be better.

That is a restrictive clause, while Which is an unrestrictive clause.

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For non-English majors like myself, this means asking yourself if the sentence would still is accurate if you were to cut out any text following either qualifying word.

for example, if I cut out the “that are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words,” the last sentence of my paragraph would read like this:

Then again, when you are writing books, it should be understood a few words might just be repeated.

The statement is truthful and accurate. Therefore, my edited paragraph is:

To be clear, I was very appreciative of that particular feedback. Until I read that review, I had no idea I said and wrote quite so many thats. Of course, now it’s been pointed out to my attention I see the reviewer might have a point. Then again, when you are writing books, which are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words, it should be understood a few words might just be repeated.

The downside of this tip is I have to go through my work in progress with a fine-toothed comb, in order to tighten my writing before I send it off to the professional editor. This has been no quick and easy process. But I have to say the reviewer who first gave me the tip has a point (and thank you to all who have ever shared a review) and I look forward to being on the other side of edits soon.

And that’s all I am going to say about that.

 

Guest Post – Allie Potts #amwriter #nanowrimo #humor #thestruggle

To all of you participating in NaNoWriMo, good luck! Thank you again, Kristin for hosting. Here’s to finishing those novels.

Villany close to home

My little lord tyrant, also known as my toddler (2), is nearing the end of his terrible twos. This would excite me beyond belief if it were not for the fact that prior experience has taught me the threes are even more trying.

As he sat in his booster seat at the table the other day considering whether or not food would look better either smeared in his hair or on the floor (because in his tummy is definitely not where it belongs), the hubby and I sought ways to distract him. We asked him what he wanted for his big day.

I wasn’t really expecting an articulate response. He is still two after all, and he did quite well for himself during the holiday season, but I was expecting him to say “planes,” or “monkeys,” or even “dinosaurs!” all of which are his reigning favorites. Instead he answered, “parties.”

My elder son, 6, was flabbergasted. Did his younger brother really just turn down presents? Surely his brother didn’t mean what he had just said. He obviously did not understand the question properly. He looked at 2 and offered multiple alternative suggestions. Don’t you want this? Don’t you want that? He was nearly begging his brother to suggest something, anything, that could be picked up from the store. 2 listened attentively. His brother was talking directly to him and as far as he is concerned his elder brother is a rock star.

You could almost see the gears turning in his head. Finally, after deciding that his food looked best squished into a paste on top of his place mat, 2 answered, “I don think so…”

Could it be that my youngest has already figured out that shared experiences are so much better than physical things? Could he, at 2, already be on the path toward a zen like state of happy acceptance? As both the hubby and I are flirting with minimalism, we were so proud.

But then I brought this story up to a few who also know his little lord majesty. They suggested a chilling alternative. What if 2 had already devised that “Party” typically means multiple presents? He did ask for parties. Plural. What if he really understood what the word meant? Why settle for a short list when you can have it all! My son could be playing a much bigger game.

Stewie Griffin
Stewie Griffin (Photo credit: Wikipedia) a character obviously based on my toddler

If that is the case, if his request was thought out, then there is a level of evil genius behind those adorable blue eyes that should frighten me to my core.

“He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city, He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans.”

Sir Arthur Doyle wrote those words to describe Dr. Moriarty, but Sherlock Holmes could easily be describing my second born.

It’s a good thing then for my son’s sake, that I’ve always enjoyed a well developed villain (or anti-hero) whether it be in a book or on the screen. I like to better understand their motivations. To me, there is something awe inspiring about seeing their plan unfurl after they have lead the “good guys” on a merry goose chase. I enjoy them because I believe that by examining our darker motivations on the page or screen we actually are inspired to be better people in our daily lives.

Recently, I decided to cut back on my regular posting in order to finish up rewrites on my current novel project. The year is only a couple weeks old and I’ve made more progress in these few days than I have over the last several weeks. I’m don’t believe I am giving away too much to say that it features a character who eventually could be described as a villain, but is far from considering herself as one. You may not particularly like her, but if I’ve done my job, at least you will start to understand her.

But what about the villains out there who aren’t fictitious? Does my fascination with the anti-hero mean that I should feel more compelled to understand their backstory? Should I care about their motivations when what they have done seems senseless? There is an old saying that goes the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. I truly believe that most people, in their hearts, believe they are good people, doing what is just, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of committing the most atrocious acts. This is why the end result matters as much as the person or persons committing the act. I might sympathize with a person’s plight, but some ends are never justified by the means. In order to be good, you must also do good.

Perhaps I need to work on being more understanding or forgiving. Perhaps the world needs to get a little less crazy.

Until then, I continue to only celebrate the villains on the page, the real-life heroes, and maybe a certain soon to be three year old’s big day.

Je suis Charlie!