The Editor’s Corner – Polysyndeton

Last week I took a break to bring you some poetry, and I’m delighted it was well-received. This week, I bring us back to The Editor’s Corner to talk about polysyndeton.

I can just hear you now: “Anne, are you making up words now? We’re still early on with The Editor’s Corner, for crying out loud.”

But no, this is a real word that comes from the Greek “bound together.” This is a literary/writing device that allows for what people might think is a “run-on sentence,” but it’s not. Specifically, it is used to bring rhythm, repetition, and emphasis on the connected ideas. It can also bring a sense of excitement to the reader, and get them to pay attention to the change of pace in your paragraph.

I’ve heard people complain about run-on sentences, but when I read them, I recognize when it’s polysyndeton at work. It’s not something you want to overuse, but careful placement of it will help pace your work.

Of course, this is not an easy device to use, which is why some people complain about run-on sentences. It takes work and experience and skill and all of your knowledge on how to avoid a run-on sentence.

(See what I did there? That was polysyndeton at work.)

Here is an example of polysyndeton from Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ – note the emphasis and urgency it creates for the reader:

“Let the whitefolks have their money and power and segregation and sarcasm and big houses and schools and lawns like carpets, and books, and mostly–mostly–let them have their whiteness.”

By not separating these ideas, Angelou made the idea far more powerful and moving for the reader. It paints a vivid picture rather than giving you a laundry list that might make you yawn, instead.

That’s all there is to it! Next time you have a powerful passage you’d like to express to your readers, give polysyndeton a try. Just be sure to use it sparingly.

Happy writing.


Grab a copy of Silver Hollow and Exit 1042 and get to know the author and what she enjoys about writing by visiting Anne’s author page. You can also check out her Facebook and Twitter. You know, if you want to be entertained.

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The Editor’s Corner – Adjective Abuse

Last week I threw you a red herring to pull you off track for copy editing. But now that’s over, this week we’re back to talking about adjective use, or rather, adjective abuse.

Adjectives are fine, but too many of them can wind up being boring and repetitive. Yes, they’re useful in telling a person whether or not their soup is hot, or if it’s cold outside. But too many of them signal to an editor or publisher that the writing is weak, and that there’s more “tell” than “show.”

As you already know, you want way more show than tell. Some tell is fine, but too much makes the reader disengage.

When you’re a writer, you want engaging reading that’s creative, not a play-by-play report.

This goes hand-in-hand with the overuse of adverbs, remember.

But don’t despair! There is an easy fix for it that you can do right now.

Instead of:
Lonnie was cold.

Try:
Lonnie stepped outside and pulled her jacket around her. She shivered, mindful of the patches of ice on the pavement.

With the first one, you get it. Lonnie’s cold. In the second one, you’re walking with her, outside, pulling your jacket around you and trying to avoid the ice patches on the ground.

That’s all there is to it.

For practice, go back over one of your old drafts and find where you’re using adjectives. Rewrite the passage to show the reader what you were trying to say with your adjective.

Happy writing!


If you’d like to read some snazzy adjectives used sparingly (ooh there go those adverbs again), pick up my works. It’s great for horror and weird fiction fans. 

The Editor’s Corner – Red Herrings

Welcome to another edition of The Editor’s Corner. Let’s fish around and see what kind of devices we can reel in here: red herrings.

Okay—enough with the puns. I know you didn’t come here to laugh and/or roll your eyes at my punderful style.

What is a red herring?

A red herring, in literature, is a distraction technique that you will see mostly in thrillers, mysteries, and suspense. They catch the reader’s attention and lead them away from what’s actually going on in the novel.

Some red herrings are obvious and can be spotted by seasoned mystery readers. For example, in The Da Vinci Code, the Bishop Aringarosa is a red herring designed to lead the reader to believe that he is the criminal mastermind when he is innocent. A reader of mysteries with loads of experience might raise their eyebrow at that name. The direct translation of aringa rosa in Italian is “red herring.”

For many mystery readers, this was an eye-rolling moment. For beginners, it likely got them hooked on mysteries for a lifetime.

It’s important to have your red herrings be a little more subtle in order to have the reader stay engaged.

How?

There are a couple ways to accomplish this:

  1. Make your culprit seem like a red herring. You can do this by exposing the culprit at the beginning, but the culprit has a good distraction of his/her own that throws your protagonist off the main trail, and into a bunch of other red herrings, only to be brought back to the culprit in the end.
  2. Put in more than one red herring and make sure your culprit is obfuscated somewhat in the beginning, only to reveal he/she has been there all along.

This is not a copy editor’s pro-tip. This is from a developmental editor’s perspective. If your editor can spot your red herrings too quickly, they’ll mark up the manuscript and typically advise you to change it around.

And here you thought I was a copy editor all along.

See what I did there?

Ha ha!

But in all seriousness, if you are tackling a mystery or thriller, a few red herrings can delight your readers as they try to unravel the mystery in front of them.

We’ll go back to copy editing and then hop back to other devices in the next installments.

Until then, happy writing!


Horror fans who know Cthulhu devours red herrings as an appetizer and enjoy Lovecraftian horror with a twist can find their way to Silver Hollow

The Editor’s Corner – Dialogue Attribution

Welcome to another edition of The Editor’s Corner! I am your host, editor and writer Anne Hogue-Boucher.

Last week, I wrote about adverb usage, and as a side note, feel free to use them often in your first draft. I do. I use them as placeholders when I’m trying to get out an idea and then in my second go-around, I’ll take them out and replace them with stronger writing. I just use them as reminders of the mood I wanted to set for the passage.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s move onto tip number two.

Today’s tip is about dialogue attribution, and for many of you, this will fly in the face of what your English teacher taught you.

I will tell you now that your publisher/editor and English teacher often work at cross-purposes. Your English teacher is trying to help you expand your vocabulary and improve your ability to be more flexible with it. Your editor and publisher are trying to help you not look like a neophyte writer.

So don’t be upset if you find this contradicts what you were taught. Just remember that this is for a different arena.

Ready?

Never use anything but “said” and “asked” in your dialogue attribution. Everything else is a surefire way to mark you as an inexperienced writer.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

“There’s a monkey in that tree,” John hollered.
“Shoot it!” Matt screamed.
“Why? It’s not doing anything,” John growled.
“It’s stealing my bananas!” Matt insisted.

Why is this wrong and why does it sound like a greenhorn wrote it? A couple of reasons. This is not really showing the reader what’s going on, and it becomes a tad redundant. We want to show the reader what’s happening to draw them into the scene rather than tell them what’s going on in it. Showing brings the reader in and gets them involved. Telling makes them passive, and not invested.

It’s also redundant. Everyone is hollering, screaming, growling, and insisting. Do you get it now, reader? Are you sure everyone is in an uproar? Here the reader might roll their eyes. They get it. Stop smashing it in their faces.

So let’s clean it up and see what happens:

“There’s a monkey in that tree,” John’s voice echoed off the rocks that created a barrier from the shore.
“Shoot it!” Matt waved his hands at John. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead.
“Why? It’s not doing anything.”
“It’s stealing my bananas!” Matt ran his hands into his hair and pulled, bending over as he fell to the ground.

If you have an exclamation point (use those sparingly, by the way), then ‘screamed’ and ‘hollered’ aren’t necessary. You also don’t always need to attribute your dialogue if it’s clear who’s doing the talking, so even ‘said’ and ‘asked’ become words you can use less.

Rather than reusing ‘said’ and ‘asked’ repeatedly, show the scene to your reader. Make your reader hear John’s voice echoing off the rocks. Make your reader hear Matt’s insistence and panic/outrage.

“Do you understand now?” I asked the reader of this blog, who may or may not be scowling at these words. “It’s not that your attribution is wrong, just that it’s less than professional. So give it another go, and see how much better you can make it.”

That’s it for this installment. Questions? Send me a message on Facebook.

Happy writing.

The Editor’s Corner – The “Deadly” Adverb

It’s been 10 months since I did my first edition of The Editor’s Corner (a bonus piece, in fact), and I think it’s high time I gave it another go with my first official tip. Considering all the writing I’ve been looking at these days, well, I think there are a few things that need to be addressed.

When I was a professional editor, I got to review people’s writing before it was published, and I wound up seeing some common errors that beginners make.

These mistakes can make it more difficult to get published.

I thought it might be fun (or at least informative) for aspiring writers out there to get some tips from not only someone who is published, but also helped (and helps) others get their manuscripts ready for publishing.

So, here’s the first tip, tongue-in-cheek named:

Use adverbs sparingly. That doesn’t mean you can’t have one or two, but most of the time, there’s a much stronger way to say and show what you mean to your reader.

Here’s an example:

Instead of: “I wouldn’t do that,” Brett said calmly.

Try: “I wouldn’t do that.” Brett leaned back in his chair, arms loose by his side.

That’s it, cut your adverbs down and try building a stronger way to say what you mean. When you can’t do that, then maybe throw in an adverb now and then. For the most part, though, publishers will zero in on your use of adverbs and it will scream to them, “new writer ahead, unprofessional, unskilled.” Klaxons will sound in their heads and they are far less likely to take a risk on publishing your work.

NaNoWriMo is coming up this November. That’s just a little less than three months away now at the time of this writing. Time to hone your skills and get ready.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to eliminate the use of adverbs all the way down to one per 1,000 words. After that, try one every 2,000 words. Do this until you have rid yourself of that pesky gadfly.


Anne Hogue-Boucher likes to rid herself of adverbs as often as possible. You can read the results in her current works, and even follow her around on Twitter and Facebook.

The Editor’s Corner – The Rough Draft

As you know, last week we just finished up a section on grief in The Psych Writer Series. So this week I wanted to take a break and head to The Editor’s Corner. After all, we’re writers, not psychologists. (For those of you enjoying TPW, we’ll get back to it soon!)

I have a little online writing group and as a freelance editor, I give writing tips and tricks to the youngsters on how to improve their writing (they are ages 13-20). But I don’t care to be all high-and-mighty. I write, too.

And my rough drafts are hellacious.

Everyone’s are. But I put them up in the group, anyway.

There is a reason that I post my rough drafts for their critique. I want to show them that even an editor who picks apart everything about a novel from start to finish to help them make a better piece of writing also has crappy rough drafts. We all have our quirks and problems in our first draft.

This is why I present them a rough draft, so they can see that.

Why?

Because the first time a person gets their manuscript back with line-by-line changes and more “red ink” on it than black, it’s effing discouraging and makes people want to throw their work out the window and into a bonfire.

But I assure them: if you get something back that marked up, it means you have potential. An editor will not waste time on a work if they don’t think it can grow.

So if they or you ever ask me for my professional feedback and you get it, even if some of it’s difficult to take, know that me spending time on your work means something. It means I think it has potential, and that’s the highest compliment an editor can pay to a writer.

In a letter to 19-year-old Arnold Samuelson, Ernest Hemingway once wrote the following:

“Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote the first part of A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is sh*t. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself.”

This is what an editor helps people do. We don’t function as writers in that moment. What we do is massage the work into a shape that will leave the reader euphoric, devastated, or otherwise moved. They will incorporate your story into the tapestry of their lives.

This is why I share my rough drafts with my group. To show them that the work is always, without exception, in need of more refinement.

So when you share a work with a professional and it’s a rough draft, expect a lot of feedback. A lot of it. That doesn’t mean it’s bad or it’s crap. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Happy writing!


I am Anne Hogue-Boucher. I write stuff and then I edit it, and then edit it some more. I also get it edited. If you’d like to read some of my work, pick up a copy of Exit 1042. There’s more on the way. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

The Self-Published Guide to Editing

Last month, I did a guest post for Author’s Publish called Five Free & Cheap Editing Options for your Manuscript. (By the way, if you haven’t signed up for their guides and newsletters, do it. They’re a great resource.)

When you’re going the route of self-publishing, you have to rely on yourself to do everything. These days, that’s not all that different from working with a publishing house.

The main difference is that your publisher will handle editing for you. When you’re on your own, that’s up to you. But even if you don’t have a lot of walking-around money, you can still get decent editing done for your own manuscript.

Take a look at the article, and happy editing!

Too Much or Too Little: Pacing Problems

Janice Hardy, back in 2011, wrote an article on Fiction University about pacing problems and how to fix them, called Move Along: Fixing Pacing Problems. Five years later, it’s still relevant.

If you’re a writer, you know that pacing is important. Personally, my greatest issue I’ve worked hard to overcome is rushing the ending. I have all this tension built up and then SPLAT–the end. Oops!

My coping mechanism is to actually reduce my daily word count by half when I get to the final third of my novel. If I did 3,000 a day, I shoot for 1,500. 2,000? 1,000. You get it. This way, I’m forced to take my time getting to the ending so I can build up the proper tension for the denouement.

No matter what your pacing problem is, Janice has a solution for you. Give it a read–it might help!


I’m a writer and I like to edit people’s work for fun and to feed my pets. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook for the entertainment value. If you need a work fully edited for a reasonable fee, contact me.

Facepalm Time: Stupid Things Authors Believe, Part 2

So a little while ago, I discussed an article on Authors Publish about the stupid things that authors believe. Well, this concept of our erroneous beliefs is big enough that we need a part two, so Kurt Bubna is happy to illustrate for our eager eyes another fine point in: Stupid Things Authors Believe, Part 2.

Yeah, the need to be published “uncensored.” In other words, publishing your first draft without even having anything other than basic proofreading (and for some, not even that).

For those of you who think that publishing a first draft is fine, I have but one question for you:

Are you out of your fucking mind?

I have to wonder about your level of ego to think that your first draft is untouchable. At least I did at first, but I understand. If you’re a new writer, or haven’t been in the arena for a while, you’re soft. Delicate. Like little frilly panties. It’s not just  your ego that’s keeping you from an editor making your manuscript bleed and cry salty tears. It’s fear.

Fear that you’re not good. Fear that you suck. Fear that you’re just a hack with no original thought. Fear that [fill in the blank]. Yeah, that’s what’s holding you back. You have likely grown attached to your first draft.

Let go. Put away your frilly panties and go commando. You’re gonna chafe. Bring powder.

In the hands of a professional editor, your work can be transformed into something great. A developmental edit will help you with the structure of your novel, places where your characters need improvement so that they feel real, and finding important plot holes. Clarifying your work. Making it into something memorable.

Keep this in mind: Just because it needs work doesn’t mean it’s bad. Keep that in mind. Even Hemingway hated his first drafts, because they sucked. They’re supposed to suck, because all you do in your first draft is get the story out. That’s it.

So yes, your precious baby manuscript needs to be massaged and developed. Let your baby grow and learn to walk on its own. Get an editor.

Now, if you’re self-published, that’s not cheap, but it’s worth it. I’m lucky enough to have a professional in-house, who rips my work apart. If I had feelings, they might get hurt. Luckily I got calluses on those feelings a long time ago. Now I enjoy edits. As you grow in your writing, you may not come to enjoy them, but you’ll appreciate them.

Hang in there. It’ll be okay. Just write, and worry about the edits when the time comes.


I’m Anne Hogue-Boucher, and I approve this message, or words to that effect. I am in no way affiliated with BubbleCow Book Editing. I just like them a lot. Come follow me on Twitter or Facebook and fill your head with the occasional joke and scary story, sometimes combined.