Alert: Monster in the Cupboard (not Closet)

If you write a lot, but don’t get feedback, yours, my friend, is a lonely game. You toil away, fitting together the pieces of your written puzzle like so much cheese at the mousetrap factory, when, one day, the monster grabs you.

I am a miserable novelist. I just realized it. Not misery like in hey lady, that was my ANKLE thank you very much, but in misery as in whoa, dude, do you, like, know any words? How many ways can you say “said” without sounding moronic, he intoned.   Whimpered, whispered, hissed, murmured, muttered, uttered, grunted, yelled, roared, bellowed. Well, that’s it for me.

And that sentence structure, what’s up with that? He opened the door and looked inside as the tree fell through the neighbor’s roof. He drove the car and whistled a happy tune as the rain pattered joyfully through the open sunroof. He wrote the post and congratulated himself on at least writing something as he bored his reader (bless you, whoever you are) to tears. Subject verb the noun clause and verb a noun clause as noun verb preposition noun clause. Booooooooooooooring.

Maybe it’s because, as a technical writer, my is writing is limited to “attach the motor mount to the casting with (2) socket head cap screws.” It isn’t romance, but it pays the bills. While it’s easy to write “carefully place the hinged device against the casting and thread the screws, one-by-one, into the small holes”, my editor would hand it back to me faster than a greased bowling ball on Crisco Boulevard.

In truth, there’s something else going on.

You’re a writer – I ask you: who is your worst critic?  Go ahead and think, we’ll wait… do you need to make a phone call?

Of course it’s YOU, you ninny!

Except not really you, but the monster in the cupboard. I was going to say monster in the closet, but that now leads to coming out of the closet, which has a whole different meaning than what I was shooting for, and oh, now everything’s all tangled up. One moment, please…

So, the monster in the cupboard is your own self-doubt, self-fear and self-loathing (if you’re in Las Vegas), trying to sell you a bill of goods. I know it’s just a bill of goods because my daughter told me today that she likes my book better than Hunger Games. She might be bucking for extra allowance, but I’ll take what I can get!

The monster lives in the cupboard of your mind, next to the windmills, and sees the absolute worst in everything that you do. And it loves, Loves, LOVES to point it out to you.

Part of the monster is good. I mean, it’s the only one who makes you go back and polish that sentence once more – you know it needed it. It’s the only one who makes you question whether this book really needs this scene.

But the monster is also baaaaad, baaaad, because it can convince you that you are a miserable writer. You know it isn’t true, but the monster seems so authentic, so… so… so right.

You know that you are the monster – your parents said you were a little one when you were a kid – which means you can stop being the monster.

The next time you flop into a heap in front of your word processor, crying because you just aren’t good enough to write this book, and you really should not have quit your day job, and how could you have EVER thought that you could do this…well, you can just stop it with the Mr. Nastypants routine.

Nobody’s buying it, and you’re just being a whiney crybaby because you listened to the monster in the cupboard.

Shut the cupboard and get back to work.

Eliminating Was

007

Writing for the now, writing with action and verve, can be a challenge. Lets’s try that again: it can be tough to write good action sentences. Passive sentences certainly have their place in expressive, contemplative and descriptive passages. But they can spell death for an action scene.

Lothar was waiting behind the door, anxiously clutching the hatchet. VS Lothar anxiously clutched the hatchet on the other side of the door.

The second sentence implies action and shifts the focus to Lothar, where the first sentence describes what was on the other side of the door.

I issued this challenge to myself in the reworking of Phineas : eliminate the word “was”.

To accomplish it, I used Word’s Find feature to examine each instance of the word and come up with a better alternative. The word absolutely fits in some circumstances, such as in dialog. But, in most cases, a better word choice, and perhaps a more expressive sentence structure, can usually be found. I mean, you can usually find a better word choice!

Was is a pervasive word that can drop an anchor on your action passage.