Lesson Four from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: And Then there was a Conjunction, or Was There?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

Originally, I was going to skip over this, because I thought it seemed a little obvious.  But then I thought, maybe not.

This publisher simply hated the idea of “and then”.  They said: “And then is not a proper conjunction.  And is a proper conjunction… use for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so which are considered “proper” conjunctions.”

I did a search in my own manuscript, and found 73 instances of “and then”.  Honestly, I was a little surprised to find so many in my story.  The more I thought about it, every instance is like a laundry list “tell sequence”.

Matt did this, and then he did that, and then he did that. (It was not quite so blatant, but you get the idea) If you think about it, it’s kind of funny.  I know when I was beta reading the manuscript for my BP, the “and then’s” did pop out here and there, but I just figured it was writing style.  I didn’t particularly like it, but I let it go.  I didn’t even realize I was doing it myself.  Now that I’m re-reading with these comments in mind, they are popping out and blaring:  No No No!

So, my advice is, do what I did:  Do a search/replace on your manuscript just for starters.  Search for “and then” and replace with “and then” (just make sure you spell it correctly)  It won’t change anything, it will just give you a count of how many times you did it.  If it’s a lot, search again and start editing!

This is an easy fix.   I’m not saying this will bother every publisher, but if it’s a pet peeve of one publisher, it will probably bother another one, or two, or three.  Personally, I’m not willing to take a chance and let them go now that I realize what I’ve done.

Happy editing!

8 responses to “Lesson Four from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: And Then there was a Conjunction, or Was There?

  1. Pingback: Lesson Thirty from a Manuscript Red Line: Finale! Summing it all up | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. Oh man, when I read this I thought that there was no way I had this in there because I know “then” is used a lot as a crutch to show things in sequence, but if we have things in proper order, the order shows sequence. So I’ve been pretty deliberate in crossing those out. But I search anyway and found 32 instances in a 95,000 word WIP. Some look necessary but I’ll see if I can replace the others…

    • Yeah, I was surprised on many of the “Lessons” how many things I had done without even noticing it. I have found that I was able to delete every “and then”. If you think about it, just the words “and then” mean you are TELLING. Time to hack them away and show us what’s going on instead.

  3. I’ll have t try that, I suppose that is where the saying “And then…there were none.” came from. Sory–couldnt resist. Great idea.

  4. Jennifer J Randolph

    Good morning. I am a big fan of the search/replace feature but never thought to use it in this way. Thanks for the advice!

  5. Jennifer,
    Keep on coming with the blogs. Even if the tip seems obvious, it’s a great reminder.

    Repeated words or phrases is something I ask my early readers to look for. It’s hard to see where you use a word repeatedly, not just “and then” but any word. “So” was my conjunction of choice. I did a search/replace and was surprised too. I also wrote stuff like, “inched his way…” My brother wrote in that margin, “Stop saying that.” Big hint I was using “inches” to much.

  6. Great post. Funny thing is, while the publisher is correct in saying “and then” is not a proper conjunction, there are times that it is necessary, like in adverbial conjunctions or when using conjunctive adverbs. Instead of blowing up your blog discussing this, I think I’ll talk about this on my blog tomorrow and give examples to show why using just “then” instead of ‘and then’ can be considered a comma splice.

    Of course, anything we writers can do to tighten our novels is a great thing, but we also can’t be afraid to justify our ‘writing’ or our grammar to an editor or publisher if we feel we have a good case. In the end, if the editor or publisher still wants it changed and it’s not going to change ‘your’ story or kill ‘you’ to do what they want…make the change. Like any healthy relationship, It’s all about compromise.

    • You’re right, Jen. I’ve found a few places that I wanted to write “and then”, but I ended up writing around it. Honestly, it was a bit of work, but I did like it better without the “and then”. It ended up a little more “poetic”. It was a little harsher with the “and then” although it did sound right. Look forward to your post.

      Check out Jen at Dreamweaver’s Cottage by clicking on her name above her post. She has a great blog.