The Skittering Lilt: or, beginning to edit your draft

At Bookview Café, Sherwood Smith has a post describing a group discussion about editing your own work.

It’s hard to beat “skittering lilt” as an image, don’t you think? Here’s the context:

The next few [suggestions] were more succinct: “Watch for mixed images (“The lilt in her voice skittered” — a visual reader is going to stop cold and try to figure out how a lilt can skitter), watch for clichés—especially using two for emphasis (“She thought about the rattling skeletons in her closet and the ancient bones of her past that stirred” two clichés for the price of one, and both saying the same thing, which has a numbing effect), and go through and read aloud your sentences. “If the rhythm starts repeating, you’ve probably got way too many semi-colons.”

Plenty of interesting suggestions in the post.

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3 thoughts on “The Skittering Lilt: or, beginning to edit your draft”

  1. I find it easier to catch this kind of glitch in a book someone /else/ wrote — especially an audio book. I still remember reading (or rather, listening to) one of the Twilight books, and wondering how the heroine could describe herself as having “a voice pale with revulsion.”

  2. ‘Skittering Lilt’ is a catchy phrase, if only it actually made sense. I wonder if this particular issue is in part due to revisions trying to strengthen individual verbs or phrases out of context.

  3. I can almost make skittering lilt work. If the person has a voice that has been established as lilting already in the conversation and something happened to cause the voice to suddenly shift it MAY be described as a skitter. You know how writers show a character reacting by just a flicker of an eye or a slight tension showing around the mouth? Same thing but using sound. And needing a bit more work.

    I have also heard voices I’d describe as slithery but I doubt that is the effect the writer would be going for.

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