Winter Workout

Before I get to the part of the post pertaining to the title, let me announce the winners of Alan Cumyn’s novel, All Night. In case you’re new to this blog (if you are, welcome and help yourself to cheese sticks), Alan’s interview is here.

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Caught up? Good. Thanks to the magic of the Random Number Generator, the winners are . . .

Are . . .

Are . . .

Are . . .

Ellen Reagan
Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Aussa Lorens

Congrats, guys! Please email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to let me know the email address attached to your device (Kindle; smartphone; iPad). I’ll have Alan’s book sent to you.

003Now that I have your attention, I have a workout you fitness buffs can try. It’s called the Winter Workout.
• First, don over your pajamas a sturdy pair of warm-up pants like the ones a good friend bought for me to prevent more blog posts like this or this.
• Second, add to your ensemble a polar fleece pullover, a fleece hat, fleece coat, fleece-lined boots, and fleece-lined mittens, which combined undoubtedly weigh as much as the average fourth grader. Consider yourself a weightlifter just for wearing these clothes.
• Third, trudge toward your vehicle through drifts almost knee deep in places.
004• Fourth, firmly grasp your snow brush by the handle. Place against the snow piled high on your vehicle. Brush in an even manner back and forth from the hood to the trunk of the car. Repeat 70,000 times or until your arm tires, whichever comes first.
• Fifth, stop to wipe your runny nose with the back of your glove, because you did not bring tissue. Dare anyone to say anything.
• Sixth, firmly grasp your snow shovel by the handle. Insert the blade of the shovel into the snow and shovel any area in which you need to drive or walk. For example, your driveway or around your parking space. Repeat 70,000 times or until your back gives out, whichever comes first.
• Seventh, go inside and proceed to drink eight cups of warm coffee. Visit the bathroom when needed. Then check the weather on your phone or computer. Slam phone to the desk when you learn that more snow is predicted.

And there you have it! I discovered this workout, because my parking space is by a field. Talk about a wind pocket! The other day, so much snow had fallen, a section of it dormered out of my back passenger window. I could have rented out that space if I hadn’t brushed it off.

The repetition of snow followed by dropping temperatures has gotten old this winter. It almost makes me long for a volcano to erupt. Almost.

Something else has gotten old—the repetition of words in my manuscript. Though I’m in draft mode and don’t usually stop to read what I’ve written, I can’t help noticing that I’m repeating some of the same words and phrases—maybe not quite 70,000 times, but enough. (If you’re wondering why I should care, take a look at some of the reviews on Amazon. Some readers notice when an author did not vary in his or her word choices.) So after writing a paragraph in which I’d used the word suddenly twice, I decided to do a quick check back through my manuscript. Sometimes as I wrote a scene, I highlighted a word I used more than once in a paragraph so that I can change it later. I came up with the following list and the number of times I used that word or phrase.

Felt—125
Judging by—21
Just—119
Looked—70
Nodded—53
Realize/Realized—33
Suddenly—45
Surprised—20
Turned—138
Watched—21
Wondered—50

If you’re wondering (hee hee) how I found out how many times I used a word, in Microsoft Word I used Find and Replace. First, I saved the manuscript. Second, I hit CTRL + H and typed the word. But instead of suggesting a word to replace it, I left that section blank, then hit Replace All. The computer would then tell me how many times the word was replaced. I then hit CTRL + Z to go back to my original version each time, since I’m not yet ready to revise.

As you can see, I have pet words. They’re quick to use in a draft when I’m just trying to get the story down. See? I used the word just again. But when I revise, I need to do the harder work of cutting down on the repetition and strengthening my prose by culling filter words—words that distance a reader from the action. Talk about a workout! Just thinking about it makes me want to drink eight cups of coffee. Think I’ll go grab a cup now. And while I’m at it, this picture expresses my feelings very well about any upcoming snow:

grumpy-cat-8141_preview_zps9177ab07

Sometimes repetition is good, as Victoria Grefer of Creative Writing with the Crimson League describes in this post: http://crimsonleague.com/2014/02/02/5033/

Wondering about filter words? Check out Susan Dennard’s post here: http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2012/05/21/filter-words/

Alan Cumyn photo from his website. Grumpy Cat from somewhere on the Internet. Book cover from Goodreads.