Those Useless Words
Useless Words to not Write
Feeling insecure today.
Do you think it’s easy to write a novel or short story?
I’ve finished a short story titled Kindness. I think it’s a good one and need to get it ready to send to my publisher, editor, or submit to the market. So, how do I make this thing ‘slickern goose grease’ and impress folks? Let’s look at some guidelines.
Looking at published criteria I can’t use really or very. So, I can’t write, “You’re a very pretty girl.” Or, if the guy (I’m assuming here) is really gob smacked, “You’re a really, really, very pretty girl.” So, I guess that leaves, “You pretty. Or, you ugly.” Short, but to the point.
We can’t use that, just, then or any instance of those (that them). Lessee, take away the ending ‘that’, then that leaves me with ending the sentence with a preposition (of), and I’ve already qualified the sentence using ‘that’ again. And ‘then’. Aw, man! I used ‘then’. And an exclamation point! Oh, God. I can’t do that.
Now we’re into the ‘ly’ words. It’s a death knell to your work if you use totally, completely, absolutely, literally, definitely, certainly, probably, actually, basically or virtually.
I cannot convey the amount of vilification heaped upon your psyche if you use start, begin, began, begun, rather, quite, somewhat, or somehow.
Neither may I use said, replied, asked, or use any dialogue tag at all, unless I ask someone’s permission.
I don’t know who. They won’t tell me.
Think that’s hard? We can’t look down, or up. Or, wonder, ponder, think, thought, feel, felt, understand or realize.
I’d grab my chest, but I can’t describe it by using breath, breathe, inhale or exhale. I can’t shrug, nod or reach. I can’t use long sentences tied together by ands, buts, or frog legs. (I’m a writer—I can tie in the frog legs.) Hell, I can’t use a non-approved font.
How on earth, or any place else, do I write a story?
I haven’t sold a ton of books. Since I write in the western genre, I thought I’d check Louis L’Amour’s stories. He’s sold millions. Just as I thought, most of those monumental mistakes are there. It’s the same for most of the beautifully descriptive prose writing western authors I’ve read.
As an experiment I started grabbing books off my shelves in all genres—books written by successful authors. When I opened a random page, I found the mistakes listed above. Not all at once. Gimme a break, here. So, if they’d done it right, would their book have sold two million instead of one?
So, why do the experts want new and fledgling writer’s submissions to look like a blank page—dry of wit and empty of beauty? Pretty girls, but never very pretty girls? Or, exceptionally pretty girls. Maybe just “damn, you nice!” is better.
When I ask about this, I’m told, “Well, you’re no Louis L’Amour.” This is very, very true. Like, really true. Absolutely true.
But then, I’m betting he was never pushed to turn in a blank page, or something so devoid of feeling it looks like the Klingon version of the users manual to the Starship Enterprise.
I’ll just keep muddling along and do the best I can. Even if I use euphemisms and attention grabbing qualifiers… and go broke. Can’t afford to be a writer anyway. The conferences alone bust my budget.
One thing I do know. For every published writer, there are at least two experts telling them how to do it.
Maybe some of them are correct. Surely, (snicker) they have our best interests at heart.
And don’t start throwing your degrees in English at me. I made a D in high school English. My teacher cried a lot, but was quick to tell me it wasn’t my fault.
I’ll keep writing. I must. Life goes on.
Assignment: levity. Look it up. We need more.
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