Saturday, February 13, 2010

The New Me, Writing Tidy & Compact

Yesterday, I read a bit of the first version of Kings & Queens, pre-critique. Wow! Total eye-opener! What a mess!

I had good plot construction and well-developed characters, but I had a tendency to overwrite, still do at times, but this was way worse.
Often times, I see newbies making this same mistake. They choose wordy fluff and flowery rills, going the roundabout way of saying everything, because they think it makes them sound more writery or literary. All it does is create sludge for readers and scream "amateur" to pros.

Of course it's cool to use unique phraseology, to have lush description at times. That's what gives you your voice and your story some texture. I'm talking about overwriting when you don't need to.

There's a huge difference between:

Majesty chuckled, traversing from grass to dirt, finding it humorous that kids still gave credence to the tale her friend, Alec, had spun eons ago about the spooks, these wood-dwelling people-turned-creatures.

and this:

Traversing from grass to dirt, Majesty chuckled that Alec’s tale about the wood-dwelling people-creatures endured.
Man. That top one's terrible, right? Don't I know it! Major suckatude!

In my later versions, I'd stripped out a lot of this, but for the past two weeks, I've been trimming more and more, burning off everything extraneous. In my first seven chapters, I removed 1300 words. 1300 words! That's insane! I'm almost embarrassed, AFTER several edits, I still had that much garbago.
During my last word extraction, I took out extra adjectives, unnecessary dialogue tags and the like, but a ton of that tinkering made my work too dry and stilted. So I put some back in and considered my work done. Not!

I just went about it the wrong way. Now, I'm rewriting and rearranging, blending actions and sharpening dialogue to get things tight and tidy. I have exactly the same scenes, but they're tighter and neater.

Since I'm going YA with this crossover novel of mine, my word count needs to be nearer to YA range, which usually caps off at about 80-85,000, slightly more for literary, epics and fantasy. Mine's suspense. So all this cutting is necessary for me if I want to succeed.

In summer, I was at 106,000 words—nuts I know—and two weeks ago, almost 101,000. I'm currently at 95,500, but I'm only finished with 11 chapters. I think I can get it to 90,000 or lower. It would still be large, even for a multilayered, upper-YA like mine, and that's not as glaringly horrid as a 100 g's and change.

Thanks to my wonderful critters from TNBW, I've come a long, long way from that wordy nerd I once was. Now I'm just a nerd...with a more concise delivery.
Write on, my peeps. And be direct. It'll save you lots and lots of time in the editing round.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.


  1. I try to take the Hemingway approach to my writing, and I'll always hold Strunk and White's edict close to heart: Omit needless words!

    Not always easy when writing in the heat of inspiration, but I do try. Here's hoping! *fingers crossed*

  2. A very honest post. It's always so humbling to read your own work as a critic.I think the editing process can be far more challenging than the actual writing.

  3. With my sequel I have several storylines that crash into each other in the end. With that book I was soooo wordy and can't afford to be. I have lots of work cut out for my when I go in to edit. For the next books I write, I'll try to be more terse while writing so I'll have an easier editing phase.

  4. Thanks for reading. I agree. I find the editing more daunting. I usually breeze through the writing, while editing takes me forever.

  5. Boy do I know what you mean. I'm learning to cut the flab while I write and as I edit. Like you said, it saves time to write with clarity from the get-go.

  6. Thanks, Joy. You've helped me so much. I tend to edit and trim the fat as I write. I have a hard time just sitting down and writing freely without self-correcting.

  7. Courtney, your last sentence made me chuckle. Nowadays, I spend so much time trying to get it right the first time - which is impossible - that I'm doing more editing than writing It takes me much longer to write a chapter these days, than it used to.

  8. I think as we learn we boomerang between extremes until we settle into a niche of our own. I remember you telling me (when I first joined TNBW) that reviews had suggested you need to spice up your writing. You probably had to go crazy with it to figure out just how much spice was necessary.

    Great post. ;)


    from the desk of a writer

  9. Thanks. I'm glad you liked it. It wasn't so much spice they suggested, it was darkening the tone. Sapphire Reign is very dark. I don't know. With Kings & Queens, too much darkness just didn't fit. The ones who read the whole thing never mentioned I needed more, only the drivebys.