Thursday, May 10, 2012

Don't Start

As part of LDStorymakers, I participated in Publication Primer. My group was led by the awesome Janette Rallison, who endowed us all with her phenomenal wisdom over six wonderful hours while we tore our group's first chapters to itty bitty pieces. In return for this service, we are now all sworn to blurb Janette's books when we, ourselves, are famous authors. That's going to be an amazing hardship, of course, but somehow I'll find a way to survive having my name associated with one of her splendiferous future books.

I bring this up because of one of the (obviously wise) comments I made on one of my group members' chapters. This chapter was a great start to a very fun story, but the author made some awful, awful mistakes. Observe:
She also began to check out [genre] movies....
A warm glow started bubbling up....
Do you see it? My brilliant (come on, you can admit it) advice was that "The beginnings of actions are rarely as exciting as the actions themselves." See how smart I am? I suggested changing them as follows:
She also checked out [genre] movies....
A warm glow bubbled up....
You see how much better that is? How the beginning of the action is implied by the fact that she acted at all? Boy I'm a good editor.

Which came in handy when I was going through my completed manuscript in advance of sending it off to an agent who requested the full at the conference. (!!!) I've recently done some cutting and pasting and rearranging, and was just making sure that it still all flowed as it ought.

Imagine my surprise when I ran across:

Concentrating on the gland behind her heart, she started pushing Black pixie dust through her body.
Whaaaa? How'd that get there? And on my first page, no less! The most highly edited page in my book! Well, of course, I changed that sucker right away. It is now the much more respectable:

Concentrating on the gland behind her heart, she pumped Black pixie dust into her bloodstream.
Whew. Glad I caught that.

Just for curiosity, I did a quick search. If you're at all squeamish, you may want to skip this next part.
Page 2: The other students, pixies and humans, were starting to stop and stare....
Page 3: She’d stood there, stunned, until one of them had started licking her wing....
Page 14: Brina turned the knob and started to pull the door open.
Page 23: Brina turned right and started walking.... 
Page 24: London turned away and started back toward the closet.
Page 26: London’s wings started flapping....
Page 33: When Jim started walking back....
Page 34: of the huge garage doors started to roll upwards...
... and I'll stop there.

Apparently, it really is easier to see the flaws I, myself, manifest.

If you happen to be an agent stopping by my blog and you happen to read this post, please feel free to assume that each and every one of the lines listed above--as well as all their little friends--are now as perfect as can be. Also, if you'd been wondering why I didn't send the full within a day of the request... you're welcome.

Also, you should know that Janette Rallison signed two books for me at the conference. Observe:

"To Robin: I know one day you'll be signing a book for me!"

"To Robin--who is an awesome writer!"
If Jeanette says it, it must be true. Despite any alleged evidence to the contrary.

So what's on your list of things-to-check-before-sending-to-agents?


  1. Black pixie dust sounds like really powerful stuff.

  2. That would be a great search word. I'll have to do that.

    1. Careful, though. Results can be scary.

  3. I find "started" and "began" sneaking into my writing. I always do a search. YAY for search and find :)

    1. Seriously. How did authors find all their mistakes before computers?

  4. Great post. I became aware of that when I was stalking the agent who requested a full. One of her comments was about the words start and began. I immediately did a search. Now, sometimes, you need to use it because the character really does being but not complete something. But your examples were awesome.

    1. Rest assured, Donna, that there were plenty of starts that got to stay. I just listed the ones I changed. :)

  5. Well, I guess I know what I'll be doing today. Search and fix on my ms:) Great tips Robin! Thanks