Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Depend No More, Part Two

In my previous post, I discussed how the overuse of –ing and as dependent clauses can rob your writing of power, in much the same way that the overuse of adjective or adverbs can.

In their invaluable book “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” Renni Browne and Dave King offer an example of how even the pros forget to prune their prose.

“Grabbing up a pelt she pulled it close about her and gave him an impishly wicked look as she grinned. Turning on her heels with a low laugh, she went to the hearth, there to lay small logs upon the still warm coals. She blew upon them but drew back in haste as the ashes flew up and sat back upon her heels rubbing her reddened eyes while Wulfgar’s amused chuckles filled the room. She made a face at his mirth and swung the kettle of water on its hook over the building heat as he crossed to the warmth of the fire beside her and began to dress.”

Can you guess the author of this passage? Answer and editing suggestion below the fold.

Kathleen Woodiwiss takes the honors. Her 1974 book, The Wolf and the Dove, a sort of Viking/warrior/medieval hybrid, rocked the bestseller lists in the mid-1970’s and forever changed romance fiction. But her raw talent for story and characterization was almost overshadowed by a garbled style. For better or worse, these days a good story isn’t enough to overcome the slush-pile.

Here is the suggested edit:

She grabbed up a pelt, pulled it close about her, and gave him an impishly wicked grin. Then she turned on her heels with a low laugh, went to the hearth, and laid small logs upon the still warm coals. She blew on them but drew back in haste when the ashes flew up.

Wulfgar’s amused chuckles filled the room. She made a face at him and swung the kettle of water on its hook over the building heat. He crossed to the warmth of the fire beside her and began to dress.


Nary an –ing or as phrase in sight. Or for that matter, a run-on sentence and overly precious and archaic turn of phrase.

Take a hard look at your current WIP and see if you clean out a few of these dependent clauses. Your work will read more professionally, and allow the reader to experience the action along with your characters.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, the suggested edit of the Woodiwiss snip was from Browne/King, NOT me. I wish I were that talented.

3 Comments:

Blogger Edie said...

I recognized the book and author right away. Your version was much better. :)

12:03 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Bolton said...

Thanks Edie, but the edit wasn't mine, it's from the Browne/King book. As much as I wish I were as smart as they are, I must give credit where credit is due--and write clearer blog posts next time!

2:14 PM  
Blogger Elena Greene said...

Amazing what they got away with during the good old/bad old days of historical romance.

Fortunately at the time all I was reading was Georgette Heyer.

Elena :)

7:10 AM  

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