All right, I have a question for you guys.
However, I think my biggest beef with the contemporary fiction I've come across is that it is too much like a skeleton. There isn't enough meat on it. Writers today have a phobia of using "unnecessary" words (said, then, very, just, they, to name a few). So they cut them, almost to the point of creating crime upon the body of literature. I am not sure why writers feel the need to do this. Perhaps the argument is that readers don't want to read a bunch of words. Well, sure, readers are lazy. I'm lazy. But the solution to that problem is not in cutting words. It's in making the words make magic so that the reader no longer realizes he is participating in the exercise of reading.
A great example of a piece of contemporary fiction which pulls this off and still remains a chewable size is Rachel Heffington's recent debut Fly Away Home. Its diction is light on its feet, giving you the illusion of ease, and yet she uses words. There are words in that book. Let's face it: if you're reading this blog, you're probably a writer, and your only material with which to work is words. You are literally performing alchemy here. You are taking one heap of common materials (words), breaking it down in the crucible of your imagination, and coming out on the other side with something wholly other than what you started with (living persons, a story, a world). Don't cut yourself off from the one substance you have to work with. You need those words! You can't use them and be afraid of them at the same time.
On the other side of the spectrum from Heffington (because Fly Away Home is a "light" book, although by no means shallow), I am particularly prone to laying back my ears when people tell me to cut "unnecessary" words because my style relies on the cadence created by the words, and tends to have more text in a manuscript. I need those saids and verys and thens. I am trying to conjure in you the same visceral reaction you would have to poetry without scaring you with a length of poetry. I need that cadence. I need that beat. I need that sound that you hear in your head to be tangible. You may not realize it is happening (that is the large part of magic), but it is happening to you. And you know what? I use words to do that.
When you ask someone to pick a card out of a playing deck, you don't get rid of the other fifty-one cards thinking they are now superfluous. While that one card is the only card the person picked, it fails in its game if not supported by those other cards that no one sees during the sleight. In the same way, the reader's eye may "skim" words like said and very and then, and not consciously focus on them - but the impact is still there. You are making magic, and you are making it with words. There is nothing wrong with English, despite what you may have been told about adverbs and prepositions: the merit is in your deftness with its use.
So tell me: would you cut?