Welcome to the last Friday of the month with contributing word wizardess Tiffany Lawson Inman. We look forward to Tiffany's magic to transform mundane writing to the realms of marvelous. And she's donating a three-page edit to a very lucky reader. Respond to her challenge to be entered in the drawing.
by Tiffany Lawson Inman
A. “What is worse than a cliché?” Tiffany asked, with a look of horror.
B. “What is worse than a cliché?” Tiffany’s voice cracked. Her mouth quivered, pinched, and her eyes flashed wide as if I had tried to force feed her eyeball soup from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
- Which one has more power?
- Which one gave you a better picture of the horror filled facial expression?
- Which one showed voice?
- Which one will you remember when you put down the book?
The correct and totally-obvious-answer is, B.
“With a” phrases are equal to, or, yes – worse than a cliché. Think of all the vocal cues, body language, voice, unique style, and action you are holding back from your readers.
Within all of the pre-pubbed manuscripts I have edited or critiqued, the ratio of “with a” phrases to manuscript pages was approximately 600 “with a” phrases to 275 manuscript pages.
Note: a few of the phrases included are like, “She hit the snake with a hammer.” Hmmm…maybe 15 percent of them are friendly uses of the word combo,”with a.” That leaves 515 unfriendly uses of “with a.”
515 opportunities to make yourselves better writers.
From the handful of pubbed books I looked at, the ratio was more like, 100 with a’s to 350 pages. Much better, right? In fact, these examples were all yanked from pubbed books. (She walked away with a down-turned lip) But that does not give you all the green flag to write a million and two of these into your manuscript! (With a gleam in her eyes, she stared me down.)
- …with a glance over my shoulder.
- …with a quirky smile.
- …with a hint of distain.
- …with a sad story in her eyes.
- …with a roar.
- …with a howl.
- …with a dull ache.
- …with a confused expression.
- …with a gap-toothed grin.
- …with a soft laugh.
- …with a sigh.
- …with an odd expression.
- …with a smirk.
- …with a frown.
- …with a curtsy.
- …with a thud.
- …with a crunch.
- …with a boom.
- …with a flare.
- …with a critical eye.
- …with a wave.
- …with a growl.
- …with a smack.
- …with a flick of her wrist.
- …with a cough.
- …with a sense of purpose.
- …with a confidence.
- …with a sickening crunch.
Do they look familiar? How many do you have? Use the FIND search in Word and see for yourselves. Type in: with a
It’s easy, I promise it won’t hurt. (I called to the writers with a hint of sugar in my tone.)
Do you need to sit down? Breathe!
Now highlight them.
My challenge for you. Go in and rewrite. Get yourself down to between 50 and 100 “with a” phrases in your entire manuscript. Both friendly and unfriendly included in your final count.
Use them sparingly, if at all. And the ones you choose to keep, push yourselves to write them fresh. Kick the basic, plain, unadorned, below average, routine “with a” phrases to the curb.
Another challenge for you: In the comment section below, post a 20-40 word section of your manuscript that includes a “with a” phrase and below it, a fantabulous rewrite. The rewrite can be more than 40 words.
The author with the best rebirth of a “with a” phrase will get a 3 page edit from me!
(I flourished the last line of the blog with a virtual-high-kick.)
Thank you very much for joining me for the last Friday of the month here on WITS! I’ll be checking back throughout the weekend to answer any questions and back on Sunday night to announce the WINNER!
Workshops taught by Tiffany Lawson Inman:
- · From MADNESS to Method: Writing Oscar Worthy Characters!
- 77 Secrets To Writing YA Fiction That Sells!
- · Triple Threat Behind Staging A Scene
- Fighting in Fiction
- Directing Dialogue
**These courses will be taught at least twice a year. You won’t miss out!**
Want to learn from me in person? I will be presenting a workshop at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference this year. Registration is open!
You can find Tiffany at her website , info-packed-blogs starting back up in late summer 2012.
Tiffany Lawson Inman (NakedEditor) claimed a higher education at Columbia College Chicago. Here, she learned to use body and mind together for action scenes, character emotion, and dramatic story development. She teaches for Lawson Writer’s Academy and presents hands-on-action workshops. As a freelance editor, she provides story analysis and editing services.