Friday, March 19, 2010

it is a two-letter word


That's right, the word "it" is not my friend. For that matter "but" likes to bully my writing, too (I'll get to that word another time, though...)

For now I'd like to focus on how using too much of it can be a bad thing - a detriment to your writing. It is a lazy filler for better, more descriptive words, words that can help move your story forward and draw your readers in.

It was pointed out to me a few weeks ago while my manuscript, Trevelyn's Shimmer, was being critiqued. Apparently I'm partial to the word and I didn't even know I was using it so much. Using the word it instead of describing what it is, is lazy writing. Of course, sometimes you can't avoid using it. When you're using it to represent an inanimate object, a person, animal, or a thing with no distinguishable gender previously mentioned in a sentence, there's really no better choice? Or is there...?

adjectives - easy! not too many!

I'm not suggesting painting your manuscript with floor-to-ceiling adjectives to replace it. But why not try to use them where you can? Or if you have an object with an unassigned gender, assign it one. Why not? Foreign languages, other than English, assign every word a gender. In Spanish a table is a she, a car is a he. In French a book is a he and a bike is a she. And universal knowledge holds that a boat is a she - she's a beauty!

Here's an example of a passage from my manuscript where I clearly used the word it one too many times: "The balloon had grown – again. It pinched against the corners of the closet as though it were a giant ducking its head and hunching its shoulders. It squeaked and rubbed against the walls attempting to wiggle loose, but I threw the weight of my body against it and closed it back in, hoping that it wouldn’t pop."
It count = 8. You probably didn't need me to highlight the its to realize how many there were - an annoyingly high amount.

Now here's the sentence revised with adjectives and gender assigned to replace it: "The balloon had grown – again. The swollen, red rubber pinched against the corners of the closet like a giant ducking his bulbous head and hunching his aching shoulders. The balloon squeaked and rubbed against the walls attempting to wiggle loose, so I threw the weight of my body into the spongy material and closed it back in."

It count = 1. Better, right? At least I hope so! In assigning a gender to the balloon and describing the balloon as "swollen, red rubber", or having a "bulbous head", I've turned the balloon from an inanimate object to an actual character in the book - which was something that I had been trying to do!

Let's face it - the word can be like cancer eating away at your prose. If you are like me and let it rob your story, go through your manuscript and highlight the word so you can see where it is unnecessary. Then think outside of the box and stop being a lazy writer! :)

If you're partial to it, what are some of the tricks you use to bag this naughty two-letter word?
(it count in this post = 31)

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