Thursday November 19th – Day 15


Conscious at 5.00am and up at 6.00. Cooler this morning; a breeze from the north. The sunrise over Dumsey Meadow was memorable; crimson and golden and every hue in between. Today is the first day of the third week and the third Thursday since we began: a monster day of 3,000+ words. Or, if you’d like a 400metre metaphor, we’ve been steady up the back 100 and now we can cut loose; we’re giving it all we’ve got off the final bend and into the home straight. If that sounds a shade melodramatic, then let’s channel the energy off that melodrama right to the tape: limping over the finish line may appear noble, but right now I feel the need – the need for speed. Yes, I know, Top Gun and it was awful in a kind of can’t-take-my-eyes-off-it sort of way.

But, a conjunction, preposition, adverb and occasional noun; but however we define it, it is the most over-used and at the same time useful and useless of words. I didn’t but… one can’t but… never anything but… but a shadow of… nice but… and no ifs and buts. When I’d come to the end of the first draft of The Wind Between Two Worlds, I had a sneaking feeling I’d overemployed a number of words and foremost among these was ‘but’. I can’t now recall the exact total; except I do recall it embarrassing. As I mentioned yesterday, the first draft topped out at 150,000 words and ‘but’ must have accounted for at least 1,000 of them. It was a horror show. Editing took the novel down to 125,000 and by the time I’d slashed and burned, only 312 of them were that word, you know the one, the one I’m doing my best not to use. I had substituted the words 'except, apart from, only, merely, simply, besides' and so on. Yet, the best method of removing the word comes in the form of changing the context of its location and rewriting the sentence, if not paragraph. That can be dull; that can be onerous; and, surprisingly, that can be fun as well. But is, if you’ll excuse the pun, an Americanism and a butt-ugly word; it possesses no real poetry and serves only to break the flow of your narrative. Get rid of it, erase or delete it. Find another route. Repetitive words can also hinder the flow of a narrative, though these days one can buy a program that will tell you how many times you’ve used particular words: this is not word count in Word, whereby you enter the word and see how many times it comes up, this program identifies which words are most used and how many times you’ve used them. I keep meaning to get it… Last weekend I read a review of the recently published biography of a well-known writer in which the same individual words were used 103, 117, 118, 132 and 139 times. Strange but true.

Ciao. Until tomorrow.


  • Diary Day

Further Reading

What You Don't Know About Me

Constant Tides

The Wind between Two Worlds

The Truth in Fiction

Ontreto: A Novel of Lipari

Boarding House Reach

Mazzeri: Love and Death in Light and Shadow