Take a Sword to Your Words

  • July 11, 2016
  • Blog
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Swords are sharp and strong and you need to cut every single word that doesn’t help your story. Start off with bold, sweeping cuts, then change to a knife to give it the fine tuning it needs. What’s that? You’re publishing indie? Well, it’s true that there’s no publishing house ready to cut your darling words to shreds, so that means you can write whatever you want, right?

Wrong.

If anything, you need to be even more ruthless with your prose. This, by the way, pertains to all writers, even traditionally published ones. I once read a book that included a wedding scene so long and detailed, I felt I had been there but hadn’t gotten anything to eat. More to the point, the scene didn’t serve a purpose. Yes, I was waiting for those characters to wed (it was book four, after all), but that didn’t mean I needed to sit through it in real time.

So, cut. Slice every single word that doesn’t serve a purpose, that doesn’t move the story along, and that wouldn’t be missed if you removed it.

You’ve done that, you say. And then you went over it a few more times and cut even more. Great. Now hand it to an editor. And be prepared to be shocked. I suggest keeping a supply of high-grade chocolate nearby when you get the corrections back. Because there will be corrections despite your best efforts.

I can hear the howls when those pages return to you. It’s as if that sword sliced through you instead of the work. Walk away and take deep breaths. Vigorous physical activity can help. When you’re calmer, return to the pages.

Be honest. Read the sections and leave out the parts the editor suggested you cut. Did you even notice they were missing?

Because it’s indie, you will have the final say. You might agree with some cuts and ignore others. That’s fine. It’s your story. Just make sure it’s the very best it can be.

 

Writing, Editing, Exercise—Are You Doing It?

  • June 27, 2016
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The other day I peeled wallpaper off my bathroom walls. (The harder part of removing the backing and glue will be done by someone with the right tools. I’m not crazy.)

I was surprised at how much fun I found it, pulling the strips from the walls and ceiling. My arms stretched and flexed in ways that washing dishes or sweeping the floor don’t require. And then I sat down and went back to looking over my final proof pages with renewed interest.

Eating a Cookbook: The Weight Gain of Editing

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A fellow writer asked me to copyedit her latest cookbook. Although my editing background is in a different field, she knew I loved to cook and loved reading cookbooks. She handed me a checklist and away I went, happy to immerse myself in the world of food.

Until I realized that no matter which recipe I read, even those including ingredients I wouldn’t eat, I was constantly reaching for things that were sweet or salty or spicy. And extra portions of…well, anything. The numbers on the scale crept up.

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