In the past week I think I have deleted the phrase “It seemed…” about a thousand times!
I firmly believe in the idea that the first draft of any work has to be pushed out without worrying about its literary quality. Whether you’ve planned the whole piece in advance or are writing through discovery, that first draft just needs to be thrown out into the page. If you focus on the minutiae at the start you lose the vision of the whole. Once it’s all there on the page, then it’s time for the second draft. That’s when you can focus on the little things. With the foundations and scaffold in place you can form on the details.
It’s this point that you start to see all the bad habits you have as a writer. I’m not just talking about spelling mistakes or badly structured paragraphs. Rather I mean those odd little habits you don’t realise you have; repeated phrases, redundant words, pointless description. The idiosyncrasies of your writing style. Things that seem so obvious when you go back over them that you can’t imagine why you didn’t see them as you wrote them.
I’m halfway through the second draft of my novella, and if I had a pound for every time I’ve deleted the words “It Seemed…” I’d be rich. For some reason I’ve been putting it at the start of almost every description. Those two words are totally redundant if you are using a literal description, and yet I have put it in over and over again.
When I had a friend give an Alpha read for The Breaking Land he came back with a list of words I used over and over again. This was simply a need for me to use more varied descriptions. My use of “It Seemed…” is a similar but different issue. I do have a tendency toward redundancy when I first write. My second drafts always do involve a lot of trimming.
I always imagine writing with this glorious image of the author sitting down at the keyboard and the words flowing from their fingers straight from their mind in the form that they’ll be published. You never picture how much work actually goes into it. How much sculpting of the language it takes to make the basic ideas in that first draft become readable. Hopefully, over time, I will get better and better at making the first drafts readable. Somehow I get the impression they will always need just as much work.