Learning To Write: TO Be Or Not TO Be
Falling Out Of Favor
I have recently discovered that my writing skills have been hampered by using one cursed word way too much. It is the glue word “TO”. It has been my easy sentence manipulator and has made my writing talents look less than professional. I have discovered that some sentences written in my previous articles have the word “TO” gluing phrases together as many as 3 or 4 times. That’s almost as bad as using adverbs more than absolutely (adverb) necessary.
Let me give you an example. If I write a sentence that says “I went to the store to fetch some groceries to get what I needed to make the meal I wanted to make,” Wow! I just leaned heavily (adverb) on that dastardly little preposition and created a sentence that in no way, shape, or form resembles anything like creative writing machinations. In other words, I used the word “TO” as a crutch. I hobbled through that sentence with one leg up in the air and blundered my way towards the next one. Yuuch!
Glue words are ones that tie nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, etc. together. Can, but, is, was, were, for, and in are examples of glue words. I don’t mind using them because, in most cases, they are not repetitively (adverb) used, and there are substitutes for them if you need some help. But not so with the word “TO”. It has become the bane of my writing existence.
Creatively Speaking (Or Writing),This Is War!
So, in the bests interests of seeking a solution for my literary predicament, I have declared war on the use of the word “TO”. Since the little devil can be used as either a preposition or an adverb, I will have TO attack the issue on 2 fronts. The main problem with my situation is that my task of battling the little bugger is somewhat difficult TO say the least. But let’s see what can be done.
First, let’s go back and grab the sentence I used as an example at the beginning of this blog. It states “I went to the store to fetch some groceries to get what I needed to make the meal I wanted to make.” Sounds like an elementary phrase written for a children’s book. So let’s see what changes can be made.
How about: “The store was my destination for the groceries I needed that would complete the meal I desired for dinner.” I have just recreated a sentence that kicked that annoying little turd-word to the curb (Hmmm, almost sounds like a cliche or rhyme). The Caveat? I created a pleasant, and less obtrusive, sentence out of an annoying and amateurish sounding one.
Or how about: “As for the dinner tonight, the store near me had the groceries I needed for the meal I had planned.” I said the same thing again, but with a juxtaposition of words.
The Word “To” Vs. Adverbs
A famous author once coined the phrase “The Road to Hell is Paved with Adverbs “. What that means is adverbs are the universal bane of creative writing proponents, at least so far as the literary critics are concerned. Really, truly, hopefully, carefully, and faithfully, are examples of words that are considered adverbial (adjective) demons in the halls of writing science. In many ways I agree because they are a cheap-out for scripting a sentence when the writer chooses a quick fix for a complicated phrase.
When you use a grammar editing program, and you are plowing your way through the grammar function itself, every adverb you use is targeted with the notation that you should choose another (or better) way of writing the sentence. When I went overboard with my editing tasks that culminated with the elimination of as many adverbs that I could get away with, I found that I was stuck with the word “TO” instead.
So, what I have begun doing done is sticking the adverb in where it fits in comfortably (adverb) so I could ditch the word “TO”. Maybe that sounds quirky or ill advised, but sometimes an adverb makes the sentence flow nicely (adverb) where the word “TO” just does its dirty deed and sticks two or more phrases together.
The Final Verdict
I reworked my first two novels FATE STALKS A HERO: RESURGENCE and FATE STALKS A HERO II: THE FIJI FULCRUM intent on eliminating the word “TO” wherever possible. I did this by rewriting the sentences. What I found out is that, in 95% of the rewrites, I created more polished and acceptable sentence structures when that task was done.
Yes I did force the issue sometimes when I shouldn’t have, but a properly fashioned adverb, or the dreaded “TO” word, saved my hide and I backed down. In other words, I upped my writing skills by using creative ways ‘to’ make a sentence flow without leaning on excessive glue words ‘to’ get my point across. But I also realized the words I avoided sometimes made a particular sentence flow better than when I sidestepped them altogether.
If all this gobbledygook sounds complicated, try a little test for yourself. Create a sentence that has the word “TO” incorporated in the dialogue more than once. Then see if you can rewrite the sentence and give it a quality feel by eliminating one of the “TO” words. Then try it again and eliminate all of them. Now, tweak it for a polished end result. You might be surprised by what you discover.
I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf when you are done.
I wrote the first novel for people who don’t like to read books. I wrote the sequel for people who hate to read anything but find the plot compelling enough to allow yourself to be drawn into the story lines and want to take it all the way to the end. You are the ones that give me the type of comments that encourage me to write more engrossing dialogue to help and inspire for you going forward.