Murdering Children, good words we must crucify - So, you come up with a beautiful scene for your book, full of descriptive imagery and a new found word. It’s poetic, profound, perfect. But it’s fat. Irrelevant to the story arc or the character. It felt good to write it. Even better to reread it. But it’s still fat. So, as painful and excruciating as it is, you take your little rodent, highlight the passage and hit ‘delete.’ STOP! Sure it’s fat, but it’s pretty. Keep it. I have a document for each of my manuscripts called ‘excerpts’. I take those deleted passages and tuck them away--just in case. And even if I don’t use them, I still have the little jewels of my creation to glance upon.
It can be a painful thing. ‘Like murdering children.’ And I don’t suggest the band-aid approach. It may be over quicker, but you want to make sure you remove just enough so you don’t damage the surrounding words. Like a surgeon removing dead tissue. OK, gross, but you get the picture. After a painful rejection of a full manuscript submission, I followed the advice of the agent. In so doing, I cut the entire first two chapters of Dream Weaver, including a poignant and beautifully written nightmare scene. But I was able to move that particular scene to another location and still lose the fat. As well, I turned several ‘memory weaves’ into dialogue for Nick. And whaddaya know? It sure made Nick sound intelligent.
The Queen of Seems - At my first conference, there was a speaker named Elizabeth Lyon. I’d heard a web broadcast she had done before the conference, so I was vaguely familiar with her. She gave an excellent seminar on editing your work. And I really enjoyed learning what she calls ‘riff writing.’ After her seminar, I went to purchase her book, Manuscript Makeover, and got to meet her and get my book autographed. Her book has been a godsend. And she was kind enough to answer a few questions for me via email.
In her book, she talks about using the word ‘seems’--as well as others. So, I did a word search and discovered I was the queen of seems. I had no idea how much power that one word robbed from my story. I also went through my manuscript and looked for redundancies, and again thanks to Thesaurus.com, I was able to replace boring, overused words with more colorful, descriptive words.
There are a lot of great books out there on editing and I highly recommend Ms. Lyon’s books ‘Manuscript Makeover’, and ‘The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit.’ As well, a friend gave me a copy of an English composition textbook called ‘Writing with a Purpose’ that has been helpful. There are LOTS of sites on the internet to help with grammar and punctuation questions, and just about anything else literary. And, Stephen King actually has a book out now on writing…I bet it’s not too scary…except the part about murdering children.
AS A SIDE NOTE - I just happened across an author named Sarah Darer Littman when I googled ‘confessions of a closet vampire’ on a whim. Ms. Littman was also kind enough to respond to my emails, so I checked out her website. She has some really great tips for writers. Thanks Sarah!