From what I’ve heard, lots of writers fall into the trap of run-on sentences. I always knew I had a penchant for them, though I thought I’d been fairly rigorous in keeping them on a tight rein in my manuscript. This weekend I polished like a maniac, putting in at least fifteen hours and getting only about half-way through. Now, I’ve been over this manuscript at least three times from front to back – but I never before saw so many unnecessary ‘ands’, ‘buts’, ‘whiles’ and commas jump out at me, ushering me along marathon-sentences until I was out of breath. The longest sentence I found went over six lines.
I must have deleted five-hundred ‘ands’, four-hundred ‘buts’ and one-hundred ‘whiles’, most of them usually accompanied by a comma. Those were substituted by a period in most cases. Sometimes it took some copy-and-pasting to keep both sense and flow intact (because, of course, too choppy sentences aren’t good, either).
An example: Suddenly the security chain rattled on the other side, just as I reached out to bang on the door, which flew open with a clatter and a screech before I had touched it.
This one isn’t even all that long, but ugh! Get me a chainsaw.
(Don’t even get me started on my overuse of ‘suddenly’, ‘so’ and ‘probably’. Or even ‘even’.)
The security chain rattled on the other side, just as I reached out to bang on the door. It flew open with a clatter and a screech before I had even touched it.
Also, I’d gotten into the habit of adding ‘I realized that such-and-such’ or ‘I saw this-and-that happen’ at the beginning of many sentences. The story is written in first person. With these add-ons, I tried to express that my protagonist was thinking what I was writing – does that make sense?
Another example: Behind it was XXXX who had powers of his own; surprisingly well-developed powers that involved the awareness, or spirit, of others. I realized that this had to be him in my head, not YYYY.
The ‘I realized that’ is as unnecessary as pointing out there are sweets in a candy store. Of course she realizes it at this moment. The ‘had to be’ implies this enough. Much better to let the reader realize that she realizes it in this moment: This had to be him in my head, not YYYY.
Current word count, after going through half the manuscript: ca. 103.000
Sure, I took quite a few scenes out for reasons not pertaining to the above. But still.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. ~Mark Twain