I have a writerly tic. It showed up in early drafts of Out of the Pocket, and to a lesser degree in Openly Straight. It is happening big time as I finish the first draft of my newest novel, The Porcupine of Truth.
My protagonists tend to cry a lot.
They also tend to hug a lot.
I’m a nice guy. It’s like, an emotional thing happens, and I want to let them let the feelings out. I also like to make them feel better. Hence the hugging.
This is a bad habit. For one thing, a lot of crying tends to lower the impact of, well, crying. In the same way that riding rollercoasters on a daily basis would make a trip to the amusement park less of a special treat, constant tears is a great way to bury the climactic moment of a book, should that moment include tears.
So what’s a writer to do? How do you break bad writerly habits?
In my experience, you don’t. You simply let ’em rip in your first draft, and then you go back and get rid of all the bad stuff. For giggles, I am going to search through my current manuscript for some of the writerly tics of which I am aware. Here’s how many times the following words or phrases are used in Draft One of The Porcupine of Truth:
cry: 20 (uh oh).
kind of: 61
sort of: 16 (I’m getting better!)
in a way: 29
avert, as in “avert my eyes”: 3 (Yay! Not as bad as it used to be!)
So what does this tell me? It tells me that the final week of July, before the book is due, will be spent with me pouring over the text, removing my bad habits.
It’s okay. We all have them, I assume. We can’t all write perfect sentences throughout our first drafts, or even our final drafts. We do the best we can.
But for now, it would behoove me to cut the amount of crying that happens in my new book in half. That way, when the big emotional moment occurs, readers won’t think, “Not again!”