Here are four things you notice while revising. Maybe not the top four things, but definitely up there somewhere. In the top twenty. Based on a metric I made up just now and will not share.
1. You use the same verbs over and over ad nauseum.
“Hey, Carl,” said Lenny. “You keeping warm?” He laughed.
Carl laughed. “Trying to.”
“Yeah,” Lenny laughed. “I hear ya.”
“Why did we laugh just now?” said Carl, an uneasiness in his voice.
“I don’t know,” said Lenny. “I didn’t really feel like laughing.” He laughed.
“It’s like we did it just because some horrible God-thing wanted us to have a conversation, but didn’t want to ruin a reader’s immersion by using dialog marker words like ‘said.’” Carl laughed.
“That’s pretty lazy writing.” Lenny laughed and laughed, until his laughter widened his cackling mouth across the entire novel, his sickening guffaw echoing into each and every page like some sort of Joker gas induced mania, swallowing reality into an endless shaggy dog joke, assassinating the narrative into tiny smithereens.
“Gosh,” said Carl. “Somebody needs to use the control F function on their keyboard. Also, why the hell are we both men? Sexist much?”
“Shut up,” slurred the author. “I hate you. I hate this book. I hate everything.”
2. You have approximately 800 too many characters in your novel, and people have told you so, but you still haven’t gotten rid of them.
INT. A CROWDED CAFE. DAY.
WRITING INSTRUCTOR and AUTHOR sit at a table, a manuscript on the table between them.
Now, I don’t want you to panic at this suggestion.
Do you think you could combine Lenny and Carl? They
seem to serve the same purpose as characters.
I don’t know. I resist that a little. I know they’re both father
figures, but Lenny is kind of his musical father while Carl
is more of his academic father.
Can’t one character serve both roles as the lone father figure?
What about Barney?
He’s the “fun” father figure.
Mm-hm. But aren’t Seymour and Ned also sort of
Of course! Ned is his spiritual father.
Seymour is his literal father. As in, he actually implanted
the protagonist’s mother’s egg using his mansperm.
Oh, right. Chapter 44. The one with all the laughing. Do we
really need Seymour?
Well, he’s based on my high school writing teacher that taught me to
love language, so…
A beat. WRITING INSTRUCTOR turns toward the counter.
Do you have any cyanide you can put in this coffee?
3. Alcohol is King. All Hail Lord Alcohol!
In the beginning, when Author created the page and draft, the draft was a formless wasteland and whiteness covered the page, while a mighty pretension swept over the chapters.
Author said, “Let there be story,” and there was story, after a fashion, although He probably should have considered an outline first.
Then Author said, “Let there be a conflict towards the end of the arc, to separate the denouement from all that story I hath just creatified.” And so it sort of happened, I guess, except the denouement was like seriously seven chapters and the conflict was a little too abstract, like something about family without a clear and concrete goal, you know?
Author created Protagonist in his image.
“Hey,” said Protagonist. “You wanna maybe do some cleanup here, bro? I keep laughing for no reason, I have like 800 father figures, and the way my sex life is described, people keep laughing at me? Maybe you should create Draft Seven. I’d like to be a bit less of a Mary Sue next time.”
And then Lord Jack Daniels spake, and he said: “Author, you miserable failure. Stop ye creating and acknowledge me as thy true Lord and Savior.”
And lo, Jack Daniels did shine his happiness upon Author, and Protagonist did languor in his own wordfilth until some theoretical weekend when work did not make writing seem a chore.
4. All your favorite authors make the same foolish mistakes, so everything is totally fine after all!
What? What’s that you cite?
Baxter recycled verbs in First Light?
Too many characters did Austen invite?
Authors drank during the potato blight?
Goodbye! I’m going off to write.