Saturday, September 08, 2007


As you can tell, the plotstorm has morphed into the actual execution of the plotstorm, which is simply brainstorming a plot. I include my character development with my plotstorms. Just FYI.

Moving onward....

What I've been doing the last three days is:

I let the story gel for about a day and a half. Separated myself from it so I could see it with fresh eyes. Then I went through tightening the writing. More on that in a second.

Normally I do that after the book is finished, but since I only have to turn proposals (three chapters versus a completed book) into my editor from now on, I've changed the way I normally do it. I usually write the mess draft in a matter of days. No editing or proofing, just write, write, write straight through and get the story down.

This time, I've been polishing and proofing as I go. When I finish a scene, I go back through and polish/proof/correct errors. Then I do this when I finish a chapter so what I'm writing the first pass is actually pretty clean.

I actually got on a roll though and in the past four days have written 27,000 words even though I only intended to write the first three chapters. Out of those, I may have 20,000-25,000 usable or keepable words though.

Regarding the tightening: I am aware that I almost always over write by several thousand words. I usually end up having to cut between 3000-10,000 words...and that is before I even send the book to my acquisitions editor for consideration. So I've gone through and made sure that every single sentence belongs there. Every sentence must serve at least one purpose for being in the book. I also make sure that sentence needs to be in the book right then. I had a couple paragraph passage where I must have gotten off on a back story tangent, so I cut and pasted all but one or two sentences of that to the back of the book. I will break it up and sprinkle it in as I go, just not in the first three chapters.

One thing we often do as beginning writers is put too much back story or background in at once. This is called a back story dump and it bogs the reading. You want the story to have forward momentum as much as possible. If, while I'm reading any portion of my WIP (Work in Progress) and I find my mind wandering from the story, I know that I have stumbled upon a problem area in my story. I do something to ramp the tension in that moment. A snappier piece of dialogue, etc. Something to keep readers' attention.

Also to tighten the writing, I'm reworking sentences. Omitting every and all unnecessary words. I'm ruthless with "ly" adverbs. LOL! If I originally wrote, "she moved quickly to hide behind him." I changed it to, "She darted behind him." You get the same meaning while giving the reader the correct visual. She didn't saunter behind him. She didn't crawl. She didn't hop on one leg. She darted. Just by changing one word in a sentence, you can form images in the reader's mind. I also omitted the part that said "to hide behind him." Give your readers credit to be able to figure stuff out on their own without you having to tell them.

On that note, if you've ever received a critique or a contest comment that used the words, "RUE" that means you need to Resist the Urge to Explain. If you've crafted your sentence well enough, you won't have to explain things to your readers. They'll get the picture. In this case, it was a little girl hiding from a DCFS caseworker. She darted behind my hero's leg and peered at the woman. Then I changed it to "Wide-eyed, she shot Miss Harker looks that said she was up for a showdown of wills if necessary." So you see, not only is the child scared, she's strong-willed and defensive. Probably how she deals with her fear. I can show this without saying it or having to explain it to the reader. The hero feels her trembling hands clutching him. So he knows though the child is acting defiant, she's really scared. If he knows, the reader will know. On second pass, that sentence was shaved down to "Wide-eyes shot Miss Harker looks revealing Reece was up for a show-down of wills if necessary." Basically, the caseworker was trying to woo her to come with her, but the child only felt safe with my hero.

You never want to write a scene where you talk (as the author) to your reader. Well, anyway, this is just my personal preference. I don't like when a story has an author intrusive feel.

Another way I've tightened the writing is rearranging sentences. Seeing if I could replace three words with one stronger one, such as the above example. Other examples are: "He reached down and picked her up" became "He lifted her." Stuff like that. Saying the same thing with less words. Gives the writing more punch in my opinion. You can experiment with sentence structure in this manner. Use how you construct your sentences and your paragraphs to convey tone. For instance, if something is really, really, really important....put it in a line by itself. But do that sparingly, so the reader understands the gravity of the sentence. If you use that technique too often, it will lessen the effect when you really need it.

Same thing with exclamation points. I have a personal rule not to use more than 5-10 my entire manuscript. I'm serious. I've seen over twenty in the first three pages alone. That gets old and lessens the effect for when you truly want to convey stuff. I always use it in dialogue or internal monologue. Never in narrative. You can show tension and suspense by making shorter sentences. Long rambling sentences describing the landscape when someone is being chased through a forest will seem odd.

For instance, in Ben's story, in one tense scene, I had one sentence written something like this: He reached for the door handle and pulled but it was locked. Here we have a woman passed out in a hot, locked car. I can't ramble. So I changed the sentence to this: He jerked the handle. Locked. Not only did I break one long sentence into two, I put "Locked" on a line by itself.

Yesterday I went through the line edits of my other two books to make any stylistic corrections to my book. Such as, I wrote USAF just like that. But the copy editors switched it to U.S.A.F. in the first two books, so I switched it to U.S.A.F. in this book to make their jobs easier if they decide to buy the book.

There's much, much more that I've been doing, but as I am swamped the next two weeks so I can't put more at this time. Hopefully there's something here that you can use.



1 comment:

~Ley said...

This is amazingly helpful for a growing writer like me. Thank you for posting all this stuff. You're awesome. :)