A 370-word post in which we realize that things in the past are not happening “now”.
Right after Christmas, I finished my mid-draft, which represents the complete book before I check for plot holes, inconsistencies, and other mechanical issues. It’s the first time I read the story straight through and it’s the first time I print out the manuscript to give it a thorough redlining.
I also use blue and green lines, and a yellow highlighter, so perhaps I need a new term.
It’s a time when you sit back and try to enjoy the story (I did!). This additional distance means you’re seeing things you couldn’t when you were nose deep in the writing (oh boy, did I!). I discovered my overuse of the word “now”, which is an odd writing choice when the verbs of the book are all past tense. If you’re not a grammar nerd, it’s the difference between “We walked now” and “We are walking now”.
After Control-F’ing the word (trying saying that in mixed company), I found far too many instances. I was using it as an unnecessary adverb, a way to transition into a new sentence, or as an awkward conjunction. Here’s a list of all the ways I used it.
- for now
- until now
- even now
- before now
- by now
- now that
- from now on
- right now
In nearly every case, the writing still made sense after I deleted the phrase. Not only that, the sentences felt stronger, tighter. Better.
- She was content for now
- She felt content
- He’d never heard of such a thing before now
- He’d never heard of such a thing
- Even now, after all these years, the pain flared brightly in his memory
- The old pain flared brightly in his memory
These edits decreased my word count by more than five hundred. That wasn’t my primary reason for doing it, of course. I wanted to tighten up the writing. It’s surprising how many unnecessary words a draft includes, not to mention, how we don’t miss them when they’re gone.
Good luck with your writing and enjoy your Control-F’ing!
PS: When you Control-F “now”, “know” also shows up in the results. Guess which overused word I’m replacing next?
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© Michael Wallevand, March 2019