The reason is so simple that not everyone will love it, but any agents and editors out there are bound to give me a big thumbs up. Today I read Rachelle Gardner’s post on some sure fire MS killers, and one of those is overuse of italics.
This is something I’ve struggled with in the past and have cut back on considerably in the last four or so years (I’ve had plenty of practise). My problem is that when I’m writing, the characters are acting out the scene in my head and I’m like this innocent bystander. While they’re busy enunciating every word with inflection, I’m the stenographer writing madly from the sidelines, desperately trying to keep track and give the truest portrayal of what’s going on inside the scene.
Note to self: Pretend Italics do not exist. In fact, forget the word altogether.
So, I didn’t actually count, but you could say my novel is 100 times stronger because I removed 100 italicised words, but you didn’t hear me admit to that because I’m not using the “I” word anymore as far as fiction is concerned (maybe once or twice?).
It’s a tough literary world out there. Paying attention to the advice is crucial if you hope to slide out of the slush pile. ‘Find other ways of giving emphasis’ was the advice I will echo, and it’s worth deeper consideration as to how one might do that.
Decide: How important is that word you italicised? If you undo the italics and re-read the sentence at a later time with fresh eyes, can you live without it? Your Ed will say you can. Remember, it’s not about what you ‘hear’, but how it reads.
Fortifiez les mains défaillantes, affermissez les genoux chancelants. A ceux qui sont troublés dites: Prenez courage, n'ayez aucune crainte...