“Discrete” Use of English

Night to Dawn features zombie tales among other horrors.

During my current WOP, I ran into major problems with the word discrete, and my fellow scribes called me on it. My manuscript read: “People so we have to be discrete with our conversation.” Wrongies. “Discrete” pertains to separate or distinct, and the appropriate word for caution is “discreet.” The noun version for discrete is discretion. For “discreet,” you’d write “discreteness,” which causes more confusion.

Example: I bought a discrete number of balloons for my home, but if there’s a zombie invasion, I’d better be discreet.

Here is an oldie but goodie verb, lie versus lay, one that confuses writers. I see it in my NTD tales all the time. Yes, Yours Truly has gotten caught on this one, too. If you’re talking about someone who’s reclining, “lie” is used for the present tense, while “lay” is used for past tense, and “lain” for past participle. If you’re setting something in a given place, choose “lay” for present and “laid” for past and past participle.
Examples of reclining: The zombies are gone, so lie down and rest. He lay in the tree all afternoon. He’d lain in bed all morning.
Examples of placing something: Lay the balloon tree on the table. I laid my watch on the drawer. She’d laid her clothes out on the sofa.

“Lead versus led” can cause confusion and frustration. Lead, rhyming with bead, means to be in charge or in front. The past tense is always “led.” Confusion arises because “lead” when you’re referring to the metal is pronounced “led.” So to make it simpler…lead rhyming with bead means taking charge or being in front. Lead rhyming with bed is a toxic metal element. Led is the past and past participle of the verb “lead” (rhymes with bead).
Examples: He leads the soldiers on a quest to capture the zombies. She led her soldiers to the cemetery. They stole the lead from the church roof to pay for the guns.

Do you find yourself stumbling over words like this? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Revisions and then More Revisions

Over the months, I’ve alluded to a sequel: Steel Rose. Steel Rose wound up with its own cast of characters, so I can’t call it a sequel any more. Maybe this is good. At workshops, speakers have advised everyone to put their manuscripts aside for a few weeks, and then rework them. I put Steel Rose on the back burner while I worked on Starship Invasions. Now I’m back with fresh eyes, and I brought along my Autocrit program.

Putting the manuscript aside was the best advice anyone gave me. When I went back to it, I found a lot of inconsistencies and need for line editing. The big thing was repetition. One chapter was cluttered with “that.” There is nothing wrong with using “that” or “was,” but those words shouldn’t clutter the pages. In this, Word has been a staunch alley with its find and thesaurus features. Since I’ve gotten into publishing books and marathon revisions, I’ve made peace with Word, and I’m starting to appreciate its assets.

But let me not digress. The more revisions I make, the more I see that need to be done. Writing comes naturally, but introducing characters that people love can be difficult. The body language needs work, and I’ve seen that with others’ manuscripts. I found research helpful, and even more, the critiques I get from my writer’s group. Reading out loud enabled me to catch problems if I stumbled over sentences.

Some days, the revisions come easy, especially after a good night’s sleep. Other days, it might take three or four of my best curse words to do the job, especially when life gets in the way. On the bad days, I try to remind myself I’m making progress. And if later, an editor should suggest revisions, I will consider that person a good friend. It is better to fix the problems before the manuscript goes to print, than to have a reviewer or reader comment on them later.

That said, I have to wonder how Jonathan Maberry and other great writers get through the revision process. With deadlines, you have to move fast. I can edit fast. I have to sometimes for the NTD tales but revising comes slow. Perhaps if necessity was involved, I’d speed up my revisions.

I’d like to hear about your revising process. What was most difficult? What has helped you?

Steel Rose features cross-genre horror / science fiction by Barbara Custer

This tale received a lot of pruning before it went to press. Props to my editors!

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