Drowning in a Sea of “It”s

I’ve started going through my poor old work-in-pause. (The manuscript has been neglected so long, I can’t in all honesty say the work is in progress.) At first, I only intended to read what I’d written to plant myself in the story so I could figure out what my hero does next, but I’m appalled by the bad writing. Actually, the writing is okay, but the work is in dire need of editing. And no wonder — I wrote these chapters five years ago, long before I learned how to edit.

The worst problem I find is a copious use of pronouns, especially “it.” “It” serves only to tell a reader that the writer couldn’t be bothered to figure out a better way of saying “it,” so the writer used the placeholder word in the hopes that readers would be prescient enough to understand what “it” meant. To many “it”s make writing seem vague, because . . . well, because “it” is vague. For example:

“She’s my mother. I can’t just throw her out.” He hefted the bag of dry cat food, then paused, arrested by the image of himself pushing Isabel out the door of his apartment. As tempting as it might be, he couldn’t do it. When he was a child, she’d worked two jobs to support him, and he owed her.

I’m not sure how to replace the “it”s without causing echoes by repeating words such as “mother” and phrases such as “throw her out,” but the “it”s slapped me in the face when I was reading that passage, and that is never a good sign.

From the very next page: A chime intruded into Chet’s thoughts. It took a second for him to recognize it as the bell over the door. He seldom heard it so clearly; usually the clamor of the birds and animals drowned it out.

And this from a few pages later: He heaved his computer off the dresser top where he’d been storing it, lugged it to his office, and set it on the desk. He turned it on, ordered the lemon drops, then pulled up his plans for the refuge.

Yikes. I feel as if I’m drowning in a sea of “it”s. Maybe by the time I edit these chapters and find concrete words to replace all the “it”s, I’ll be so deeply involved in the story, I’ll have no trouble segueing into writer mode. Despite being infected by a bad case of ititis, the story deserves more than to be packed away as a work-in-pause for five more years.

6 Responses to “Drowning in a Sea of “It”s”

  1. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    Self-editing can take you some of the way but not all the way if you want to produce good work. My advice would be to finish the writing, go over it yourself until you are satisfied with it then bring in an editor.

  2. Coco Ihle Says:

    Pat, I love your words, “work in pause!” I can certainly relate. Perhaps editing software could help.There are several that are free.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      This could be one of those works that I pick up at various times to play with and then pause it again. It’s a silly story (supposed to be silly) and I’m not always in the mood for silliness.

  3. tor4hershman Says:

    Dear PB, I read your statement
    “(or is it better phrased, “who gets to die and who has to live?”)” a few posts down & guess what? It doesn’t matter, nor even energy…for that matter.
    I figure the universe could be perfectly oscillating therefor it (IT!!! YIKES!!!!!!), the universe, simply disassembles then reassembles in infinite finiteness.
    Yes, I know…I even takes the FUN outta funeral.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Sort of like leggoes, but on a sub atomic or eternal scale? I could live with that idea. it still comes down to what to do with today while we’re here, doesn’t it?

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