Writing is often a case of what not to include. Take, for example, the first draft of my horror novel. At 650 pages, the book was a delightfully light read, with a good enough story featuring strong enough characters. Sadly, this drafty draft contained sentences that really shouldn’t have been in the book (or any book, for that matter), which is why I present “Sentences Not to Include in your First Novel.” I’ve pulled a few examples and included editor’s notes after each.
Take, for instance, on page 8, where the hapless teenager, John Daniel, takes a break at his desk.
“John sat at his desk with only the lamp on.”
Editor’s Note: Only the lamp on? Talk about baring it all! I guess this is one book where the characters aren’t repressed…
John’s quirkiness continues on page 46, where he helps Alexandria Robinson, a rich snob he likes, unload some groceries from her car.
“Hey, let me give you a hand with that,” John said, pulling onto the driveway, setting his bike down on the lawn and extending some hands.
Extending some hands? Whose hands is John extending? Yikes. Well, it is a horror novel, after all… – Ed.
On page 155, John’s strange adventures continue as he hangs out at his pal Greg Thompson’s house.
“John shrugged and walked into Greg’s room, which fell into the den.”
I hope that Greg’s parents’ have good insurance — getting Greg’s room out of the den sounds like a major project. Get out of the house, boys! – Ed.
On page 415, spoiled rich kid, Alexandria, doesn’t have a car for once.
“Unused to walking, her mind wandered.”
There is no doubt in my mind that the novel’s horror imagery borders on the surreal. – Ed.
John walks around his neighbourhood at night on page 80.
“John stepped into the night, crossing lamp-lit front lawns and phosphorescent, glowing concrete. He supposed that his cat was doing the same, as he hadn’t seen her in the past couple of hours.”
What I would like to know is why the concrete is glowing. More importantly — why is his cat glowing? Time to call the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. – Ed.
Of course, some characters just don’t know what they’re saying, as the teenaged Lisa Montroy proves when she replies to Greg Thompson on page 102.
“Don’t waste flatter on me,” Lisa said.
It’s a shame the 17-year-old Greg doesn’t know what “flatter” is — he’s already pretty awkward with women. – Ed.
- Sentences Not to Include in Your First Novel Part 1 also appeared in a different form in issue 4 (Sept. 2005) of The Peter F. Yacht Club, a writing workshop that friend rob mclennan founded in Ottawa in around 2001.