“Suddenly (DELETE?) life has new meaning to me…”

SUDDENLYI had read that “suddenly” is a bump-word for editors, but I hadn’t given it much thought while revising my manuscript of Fate Accompli. However, a couple of beta readers, Effrosyni Moschoudi, author of The Lady of the Pier among them, mentioned the no-suddenly rule. I did a quick FIND search and saw I had 36 “suddenly’s” in my 96,000-word story. That didn’t seem too much, but for the sake of practice, I decided to look into doing away with at least some of them.

Here’s what I came up with:

By default, a sudden occurrence cannot be non-sudden.

Before: “Monica shot to her feet so suddenly her bare left foot stepped hard on the tilted empty glass, crushing it.”

That was clearly redundant as when one “shoots to her feet” it has to be a sudden movement.

This one is a clear-cut overkill case:

“Her thoughts were interrupted by Flora, who suddenly appeared seemingly out of thin air with a telephone handset in her hand.”

One cannot appear out of thin air in a non-sudden manner, so that one went away.

Sometimes, an interesting adverb (yes, adverb!) adds color:

Before: “For years, he’d been unable to notice any of the stuff that was suddenly visible”.

After: “For years, he’d been unable to notice any of the stuff that was now distractingly visible.”

Before: “She pushed back the worry of Beth’s impending arrival, suddenly wishing he’d turn his attention to her.”

After: “She pushed back the worry of Beth’s impending arrival, now wishing he’d turn his attention to her.”

Before: “Her hazed mind suddenly focused on the answer.”

After: “Her hazed mind somehow focused on the answer.”

Change of heart or mood can legitimately be sudden

Nevertheless, there were several instances where I couldn’t get rid of “suddenly”—and didn’t want to. I realized that the common denominator was that they were all a sudden change of emotion, change of mind or a non-clear-cut sudden occurrence. I did some digging and found that, indeed, even hard-core editors accept that when a character’s mood abruptly changes, “suddenly” enhances this shift. So here are some phrases where “suddenly” stuck.

“Monica removed the phone from her ear and stared at its blank screen. Suddenly, it was as if a sound wall had been removed, and the deafening commotion was piercing her ears again.”

“It seemed as if all her blood vessels were suddenly sucked dry, pulling her center of gravity downward.”

but

“Ignoring the need to ask about Monica’s well-being and whereabouts that suddenly erupted in him, Alex touched her arm gently. ‘Beth, are you feeling all right?'”
Nothing can “erupt” non-suddenly, so even though there’s a sudden change of feeling, the verb suffices.

And then there are the cases where “suddenly” could (should?) be removed, but I just didn’t do it. Because I can.

“The sky was full of dark pregnant clouds. A wicked wind had suddenly picked up, and Alex saw the leafy tops of the ancient oaks and elms of Richmond Park whisking incongruously following its capricious behest.”

In the phrase above, “suddenly” adds to the cadence. Try reading it without it. Something is amiss. So it stayed. Just like Lionel Ritchie kept his in the song title I chose to headline this post…

That was my takeaway from that editing exercise. For an editor’s view on the subject, check out K.M. Weiland’s article.

Do you consciously edit out “suddenly” from your writing? Is it on your editing check list? Let me know with a comment.

Don’t forget that my giveaway for a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card, 3 ebooks of Fate Accompli and a set of laminated bookmarks is running until the 23rd. Here’s the link:

Fate Accompli Super Giveaway

___________________

Fate Accompli is now out on Amazon in two heat versions. The links below will take you directly to your Amazon store.

Fait Accompli - Spicy version

Fate Accompli Spicy: getBook.at/FateSpicy

Fate Accompli Clean: getBook.at/FateClean

If you’d like to read the first chapters of Fate Accompli, they’re available on Wattpad. (4,000 views and counting…)

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15 thoughts on ““Suddenly (DELETE?) life has new meaning to me…”

  1. That was one of my, but it got phased out somehow. I think every author has a handful of words that they unknowingly use too much. The mind gets hooked on the impact that they have and we only notice the over use if we write nonstop. At least that happens with me.

    1. I totally hear you, Charles. I’m still so “green”. I’m sure I’ll look at things differently once I have written more than one books…

    1. You have a lot more books under your belt, Icky. I’m writing my second and it, well, seems that “seems” is becoming my pet peeve, too! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Suddenly is one of my pet hates, and I usually catch myself before I write it now. I find it is massively over used in children’s picture books.

  3. What a great post! I love how you distinguish between the various usages of the word, and keep some of them, while eliminating others.

    I was intrigued by your take. I avoid “suddenly”, but decided to check out Vigil for the word. Turns out I’d used it 4 times in the book, which is a little over 106,000 words long. I changed one of them to “abruptly” (it worked better), so I’m now left with only 3 occurrences. 🙂

    So, to answer your question, it looks like I unconsciously watch out for “suddenly” while writing – and eliminate it before it even reaches the paper! 😀

    1. Great job! But, you see, Vigil is the fourth book in the Pearseus series and, what? Your sixth overall? It shows that the more experienced your writing is, the more you subconsciously deal with nuisances. Thanks for stopping by!

      1. An excellent point.

        Mind you, I just checked Schism, out of curiosity, and I had one occurrence in 20,000 words (“She turned her head away, her eyes suddenly wet”). Looks like I had an early aversion to the word! 😀

    1. Ah, you see, I’m conscious of “however”, I became conscious of “suddenly”, now I have to become conscious of “it seemed”. Agh!

  4. Suddenly – huh – a greatly hated word, LOL. But somehow, we all use it. I find it in books of successful authors even. Thanks for the mention, yes, I stumbled upon that rule early on but decided not to follow it strictly. Rather, to treat it as any other word that shouldn’t be repeated overly. I have the tendency to use the word ‘chuckle’ more than any other. My husband breaks in hives when he sees it, as he edits my MS. It’s the repetition that annoys the reader, not the word, any word, I am sure.

    1. Hear, hear! Once you become conscious that a writer uses a certain word again and again, it bumps you. I read a novel where “he cut her eyes to her” was used a lot. After the fourth time, it drew a negative reaction out of me… Thanks for the comment!

  5. I like the edits you did, and even the instance you chose to keep ‘suddenly’ in the sentence. When I try to rewrite a sentence to omit a word or phrase, it seems I go into a brain freeze. It takes quite a bit of effort to re-channel thinking or to even recognize the repetitious or unnecessary words used.

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