This is the continued saga of my foray into Janice Hardy’s Revise Your Novel in 31 Days at-home workshop (blog.janicehardy.com).
Today I will be searching for any ambiguous pronouns – those pronouns that don’t clearly indicate who or what they are referring to, even though it seems clear in my head. There are many words you can search on, such as it, this, that, he, she him, her, his, etc., so this exercise may be a little time-consuming.
I did a search on the word “it.” It must be near the top of the list of words most commonly used, because my novel is littered with it. (Used twice in the sentence just read.) However, it’s worth the time, because I found quite a few places where my pronoun was ambiguous. For example, I wrote “He pointed at it,” and in another “It was pleasant.” Both of these needed clarifying as to what “it” was.
I also found sentences where I could eliminate “it.” Example: It had a long black nozzle, the open end OF IT gilded in gold, with the back OF IT squared like a box. (Better: It has a long black nozzle, the open end gilded in gold, with the back squared like a box.)
Results: Every time I corrected an ambiguous pronoun, my sentences sharpened. I didn’t mind taking a little extra time to do this because I saw immediate improvement in my writing.
If you find your eyes glaze over when you do a lot of “find and replace” editing, try starting at the middle or end of your story and working backwards. It gives you a fresh perspective and you won’t end up with tired eyes by the time you get to the last portion of your story.