Tic, tic, tic, tic . . .

Today is the last day of my vacation before I’m back in the library trenches, digging out my desk and going through the hundred and sixty e-mails (at last count when I slipped in for a saved message from Jane’s teacher) waiting for me.

As I finished my laundry yesterday, I’m dedicating the time until the kids come home to doing some housework editing of my current WIPmaking sure characters’ names were spelled consistently, scene breaks were indicated appropriately, and that my personal writing tics were under control.

Stuff I should have done before I sent it to a few trusted betas to read over . . . Except I thought I had.  I’d taken out the justs, the verys, the -ly words and the maybes, curtailed the ups and kept the seems in check.

But that wasn’t everything.

I had no idea that I’d had three people baring their teeth in four consecutive paragraphs.  I felt like Jane Goodall.

That’s really the point and the blessing of beta readers—they find the stuff the writer can’t see any more.

What my betas have seen so far is somewhere between amazing and appalling.  Apparently, if you were to run my novel at high speed through a movie projector, my characters would all look like they had St. Vitus’ Dance.

They grin, they nod, they sigh, shake their heads, work their eyebrows as if they’d glued caterpillars on speed to their foreheads, offer smiles to anything that moves, and oh, dear Lord how they snort.

I’d be annoyed and embarrassed, but instead I’m just so very grateful they identified all these before I started querying.

Here are the numbers, after I ran the tics they mentioned, plus a few of my own, through the Find function:

snorted: 33

nod/nodded: 79

sighed: 73

grinned: 58

eyebrow/s: 60

shaking/shook (mostly heads, sometimes hands): 94

smiles/smiling: 91

baring/bared teeth: 7

Sheesh.

I’m proud to say that I’ve pared things down to 5 well-spaced snorts, 11 total grins (and acts of grinning), two sets of bared teeth, and 23 eyebrow manipulations (I’m not quite done there).  It’s oddly satisfying to find ways around them, too—including outright deletion—now that I know what to fix.

Along the way, I’ve learned that I use a metric ton of action tags (He nodded.  “Of course you do.”), which would be overkill even if I stuck to the standard tags (“Of course it would,” he said.).

Good to know for future projects—I may not be able to stop myself from tic-ing while I’m in the zone, but at least I’ll know what to watch for in the next drafts.

So let’s hear it for beta readers and the glories of editing.  Not only are their sharp eyes helping me write a better book, they’re helping me be better writer.

I can’t thank you enough, guys!