Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Too Many Ladas

As I walked the back streets and alleyways of Sofia, one of my regular pleasures while living in Bulgaria, I couldn’t help but notice the many tired-looking cars parked in the older neighborhoods. Many of these vehicles were Ladas, a very popular brand during the heyday of communist rule due to its reputation for reliability in adverse conditions. In the traffic-filled streets of the Bulgarian capital I saw Ladas rumbling ahead alongside sleek, highly polished Mercedes and BMWs. For some reason, I latched onto this make of car, seeing it as a symbol of my temporary home.

During my wanderings, I took pictures of the aging vehicles I saw, often mislabeling them when posting on our Bulgarian blog. For me, every old car I saw was a Lada. My Bulgarian friends corrected me and I learned that my pictures were actually of Moskviches and Trabants.

When I began to write my manuscript, a work of fiction that takes place in Bulgaria, the Lada was still very much on my mind. So much so, that I ended up overusing the word Lada. Every time a character needed to drive somewhere, he opened the door of his Lada. Every time a character traveled somewhere, he went there in the Lada, and never in the car.

When I finished the first draft of my manuscript, I found to my surprise that I had used the word Lada 17 times. This came across almost like the Seinfeld episode when Elaine says:
“Yeah. I met this lawyer, we went out to dinner, I had the lobster bisque, we went back to my place, yada yada yada, I never heard from him again."
One of my goals while revising my manuscript has been to reduce the number of word repetitions. In the second draft, the word Lada appeared only 11 times. After further revisions, I reduced the appearance of the word to 5 times. Even so, I believe I have still managed to convey in my fiction the experience of owning and driving this eastern European car.

While editing, I also discovered a serious overuse of the adjective "small". I found paragraphs where I wrote that small flower arrangements were filled with roses with small petals. I realized that I had described every village in Bulgaria as being a small one. Every glass of rakia was small. Every criminal in the country was small-time. Most of the smalls I deleted, helping in my efforts to shorten the word count. In other cases, I replaced the adjective.

Small religious icons became handmade religious icons. Rose petals no long produce small amounts of rose oil, but rather the more appropriately stated minuscule amounts.

The reduction of repetitive texts has been a major accomplishment in the editing process. I hope readers will enjoy the results when I finish.

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