All writers have crutches. Editors help us see those crutches and provide us with tools to stand on our own 100k words. “As” is a common crutch and one that I have. Although I’m not as bad as some, I want to get rid of it. If you’re a writer or an aspiring writer (or a hobbyist or whatever word you use to describe yourself), I recommend you play along at home. To help you find common crutch words, use the find and replace option in your word processor. Find the word “as” (or any other word) and replace it with a highlighted version of the word.
Today, I’m going to take sample sentences and rework them to eliminate the “as”. After the first sample, I’ll be using sentences from Full Circle. I’ll be focusing on pages with more than one “as”.
Special thanks to Marci Baun for being a wonderful editor.
Sample: Stephanie’s mouth fell open as she stared at the size of his hands.
Changed: Stephanie’s mouth fell open. They’re huge. Her hands. Huge. The word huge repeated itself in her head over and over again. Before her eyes, they ballooned. Morphed into a roll of baloney with five fat sausages. What the hell was in her soda?
Original: His eyes grew wide as the crooked cross registered in his mind. Oh shit. Kendrick twisted around him as they lay in the baptismal tub. (Byron POV)
New: His eyes grew wide. The crooked cross registered in his mind. Oh shit. They lay in the baptismal tub and Kendrick twisted around him.
No as, but the short choppy sentences annoy me. It has poor flow and too much power has been given to inconsequential parts.
New: Through infantile wakefulness, the crooked cross registered in his mind. His eyes grew wide—oh shit. They lay together in the baptismal tub and Kendrick twisted around him like a child keeping a toy on lockdown.
That’s OK, but is “infantile” really a Byron word? The use of “lockdown” isn’t appropriate for the setting of the story. I added “like” in what feels like a gratuitous simile. I doubt anyone would call me out on that change, but I’m not happy with it.
New: Through the hazy fog of wakefulness, the crooked cross registered in his mind. His eyes grew wide—oh shit. They lay together in the baptismal tub and Kendrick twisted around him practically locking him in place.
Gonna use this.
Original: Dozens of ravens flocked into the room as Kendrick wept. Hour-long minutes passed, and he felt his body grow colder. His chest went hollow. A lump in his throat blocked his breath. Byron had left him—turned around and walked away as if the centuries upon centuries that they'd shared meant nothing. (Kendrick POV)
New: Kendrick wept. Dozens of ravens flocked into the room. Hour-long minutes passed, and his body grew colder. His chest went hollow. A lump in this throat blocked his breath. Byron had left him—turned around and walked away. The centuries upon centuries they’d shared, had they meant nothing?
I like this except the Yoda sentence at the end. I’ve had a penchant for Yoda sentences since my fanfiction days. The new shorter sentences are balanced with the longer ones. And, I’ve gotten rid of a “he felt” which is, in this case, a gratuitous phrase.
A half a cup of coffee later…I like this sentence. I like the flow. We’ve all been there, right? As it is, we can all relate to it. Maybe it was a doomed relationship, a cancelled project, or trying to save a historical landmark, we’ve all been there. We’ve all, at some point in our lives, had that crucial moment of realization [or moment of initial shock and doubt] that something we were passionate about meant nothing to someone else. There were three showings of as on this page. Maybe I can nix the other one and keep this one.
Original: Hissing and screeching, he arched his back as loneliness took residence inside his chest.
New: Hissing and screeching, he arched his back. Loneliness took residence inside his chest.
That’s good, but it can be stronger.
New: Hissing and screeching, he arched his back. Stark loneliness assaulted his heart.
Mmm...still not quite right.
New: Hissing and screeching, he arched his back. Stark solitude assaulted his heart.
We have a winner! And, I still have only one as on that page.
In this next section we have four incidences of as all on a single page.
Original: Kendrick’s talons gouged the wood as he prayed. (Keep)
Original: Kendrick smiled as best he could.
Original: Seth pulled off his shirt as he walked toward Kendrick.
Original: Seth was tantalizingly warmth as opposed to his corpselike cold.
(All Kendrick POV)
New: Kendrick proffered a, hopefully, believable smile.
New: Seth pulled off his shirt while walking toward Kendrick.
New: Seth removed his shirt and walked toward Kendrick.
New: Seth removed his shirt and approached Kendrick.
New: Seth removed his shirt while approaching Kendrick.
New: Seth’s tantalizing warmth contrasted with his corpselike cold.
New: Seth’s tantalizing warmth battled his corpselike cold. (Stronger, but too aggressive?)
And so on for the rest of the manuscript. This is why editing takes forever; however, it’s the only way to grow as...err...ummm...
This is why editing takes forever, but it’s the best way to hone one’s skills and to promote author growth. Awkward.
Editing can be a long and tedious process, but it’s an invaluable learning experience.
Hmm...yeah, I still have a lot to learn. Hopefully the next manuscript will contain fewer crutches.