Ack, ack, ack, eeeuww!

Every once in a while, working your way through a revision, you’ll notice that you’ve reused a phrase two or three times, or, if you really weren’t careful, more. In Gods Old and Dark, I had six — count ’em, six — instances of ‘sad smiles’, which has to be a recent record for pounding a phrase into the ground.

Goddamn. This is the sort of thing that isn’t so obvious when you’re writing the book, because you’re doing the writing over a period of months and individual words and phrases fade into the fog as you fight to come up with your next batch of pages. But when you’re reading it, you start hoping for the horrific deaths of all these sad smilers.

Well, none remain. Not a single one. It’s a boring image anyway. Ah, yes, the poor woman with her sad little smile, screaming ‘pity me’ from the slump of her shoulders to her big, woeful eyes. I did not take a flamethrower to the characters, though after about the third sad little smile I was ready. But I did replace all that pitifulness with better imagery and a bit more punch.

Thank God for revision.

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By Holly

Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and indie-publish my new ones.

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Michael Wells
2023 years ago

Ahh… I’ll be anxious to see who you treated "sad smiles" 🙂

2023 years ago

Yes, revision is a good thing. Will the challenge for us readers be to see if we can pick out the original "sad smile" locations in the final product?

Glad you found a plus side as you slog through the nonglamorous side of the project.

2023 years ago

I know how frustrating that is, but I gotta say, Holly, that it’s nice to know even successful and famous authors do it, too. 😉

Mine is "glance". I look back over my pages and find everybody glancing at each other so much that sometimes I want to claw my own eyes out!

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