Lessons from a Tick

I would rather have lyme disease than admit this, but here goes: I have a tick.

After nearly two decades of working on The Emergent, you would think I had cured all the sentence-level “ticks.” Well, I have…now. A real buzzer-beater. Some serious Steph Curry magic. As I made my last pass of the manuscript last week, I discovered the tick. From now until publication, anything other than typo corrections is frowned upon.

What the heck is a “tick” for a writer? Generally, it’s a bad/clumsy habit in a person’s prose. For me, it was starting a sentence or a phrase with “there was” or “there were.” I discovered nearly 40 instances, made improvements to nearly all of them, and straight up deleted others. Here are some examples vs their re-writes:

There were reassuring whispers. When they stopped, I went searching for them.

vs.

The reassuring whispers stopped. And I went searching for them.

————

There was a question in her voice as she trailed off.

vs.

A question tinged her voice as she trailed off.

————

There were other stories that were just downright weird for Oso to be telling me.

vs.

Other stories were just downright weird for Oso to tell.

————

There was something changing in her that was somehow connected to the obligations she assumed.

vs.

Something was changing in her that was somehow connected to the obligations she assumed.

————

But there were two times that she changed the tradition.

vs.

She changed the tradition only two times.

————

When we arrived, the sun was out and there was no wind.

vs.

When we arrived, the sun was out and the air was still.

vs.

When we arrived, the sun was out and the air was still.

————

But there is rage and dissatisfaction in their music; it helps give me some idea of where the discontent of men comes from.

vs.

But their rage and dissatisfaction helps give me some idea of where the discontent of men comes from.

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