Sunday, July 22, 2007

Write Tight: A 10 Step Diet for the Verbose Writer

Below is an article by Lois Winston that I found quite helpful and hopefully my writing friends will too.

Write Tight: A 10 Step Diet for the Verbose Writer © Lois Winston

THE END. What a sense of accomplishment to type those words upon completion of your manuscript. After months or maybe years of labor, your baby is ready to leave its cozy Microsoft womb and fly off to that “A” List of agents and/or editors. Except for one problem. Somehow your bundle of joy wound up tipping the scales at 20,000 words over your targeted line’s weight limit. Now what? You curse. You cry. You stamp your feet. You reach for the chocolate. Feel better? Probably not. Baby is still a porker. However, all is not lost. Put baby on the following diet, and in no time she’ll shed that excess word weight.


Reread your manuscript. Is every scene essential to the plot or the goals, motivations, and conflicts of your characters? If not, no matter how much you love what you wrote, ax the scene. Each scene must serve a purpose. No purpose? No scene. Yes, I know it hurts. So instead of hitting the “delete” key, cut and paste the scene to a Loquacious Blubber file. You may be able to use it in a future manuscript.


Repeat STEP ONE for all dialogue. If the dialogue is nothing but chit-chat which neither advances the plot nor tells the reader something essential about the characters, exile it to the Loquacious Blubber file.


Do a search of “ly” words. You don’t have to omit all adverbs, but wherever possible, substitute a more active, descriptive verb to replace your existing verb and the adverb that modifies it.
· Blubber: Joe walked purposefully across the room.
· Tight: Joe strode across the room.
· Savings: 1 word


Instead of using many adjectives to describe a noun, use one all-encompassing adjective or a more descriptive noun. If certain information isn’t necessary to your story, omit it.
· Blubber: Elizabeth grew up in an old, large house with twenty rooms that sat on four acres of land.
· Tight: Elizabeth grew up in a Victorian mansion or Elizabeth grew up on an estate.
· Savings: 11 or 12 words


Say it once, then move on. It’s not necessary to repeat an idea or image in different words in the next sentence, the next paragraph, or on the next page. You don’t need to beat your reader over the head. She’s intelligent enough to “get it” the first time she read it.
· Blubber: A kettle drum pounded inside Elizabeth’s head. Her temples throbbed. Her skull pulsated with pain.
· Tight: A kettle drum pounded inside Elizabeth’s head.
· Savings: 8 words


Identify needless words and eliminate them. Every writer has at least one or two pet word she overuses.
· Blubber: Elizabeth just wanted to know Joe better before she dated him.
· Tight: Elizabeth wanted to know Joe better before she dated him.
· Savings: 1 word


Avoid laundry list descriptions by substituting more descriptive nouns and adjectives.
· Blubber: Joe wore a blue and green plaid threadbare shirt with a missing button at the cuff and a pair of frayed black jeans torn below the knees.
· Tighter: Joe wore Salvation Army rejects.
· Savings: 22 words


Do a search for was. Wherever it’s linked with an ing verb, omit the was and change the tense of the verb.
· Blubber: Elizabeth was listening to Joe.
· Tight: Elizabeth listened to Joe.
· Savings: 1 word


Choose more descriptive verbs and omit the additional words that enhance the verb.
· Blubber: Joe walked with a swaggering gait.
· Tight: Joe swaggered.
· Savings: 4 words


Omit extraneous tag lines. If it’s obvious which character is speaking, a tag line is unnecessary.
· Blubber: Joe turned to face Elizabeth. “You don’t understand,” he said.
· Tight: Joe turned to face Elizabeth. “You don’t understand.”
· Savings: 2 words


The above word diet is part of a healthy writing style and recommended for all authors, whether or not they need to drop 20,000 words from their manuscripts.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Recommended Reading

For a short contemporary romance with well-developed characters, a wonderful plot with smoothly-integrated flashbacks, sizzling love scenes and a heart-wrenching ending, I recommend Adrianne Byrd's "Blue Skies" (June 2007).

I read the story in one sitting! It was great! Sydney "Serious" Garret and James "Jett" Colton are two Air Force fighter pilots who fall in love while butting heads, being scarred by their respective backgrounds and dealing with meddlesome, jealous colleagues. Here is the backcover blurb:

Air Force fighter pilot Sydney Garret was born to fly. No other thrill came close enough to shake her -- until she met Captain James Colton and found a reckless passion that led to fifty-five hours together as husband and wife.

When they went their separate ways, Sydney's heart understood what her pride refused to admit -- that someday, somehow, fate would reunite them. But no one imagined that it would be a matter of life and death.

When Sydney's plane is shot down over enemy territory on a routine reconnaissance flight, James and his crew were deployed on a dangerous search-and-rescue operation where every second counted. But James was not only going after the military's pilots -- he was racing to save the woman he loved.

Halfway through the story, I was rooting for Sydney and Jett to get back to together and that he'd rescue her in time.

And the ending will surprise you.

I can't wait for Adrianne's next book, "Feel the Fire" (November 2007).