Category Archives: Writing In Process

When To Delete {Editing Tips}

 

editing

All I can say is: be ruthless when it comes to anything that’s — clunky (awkward), redundant, superfluous, extraneous, clichéd, telling, overdone…

When it comes to having a nice fluidity to your narrative you have to ensure you remove things that simply don’t need to be there, simple! Take them out and if it still works then you are on the right track. Some writers think they have to say it in unique and interesting ways. While, to some extent, that might be true it can, if you work too hard, really feel forced. Then it simply doesn’t work! I have seen some wonderful metaphors and similes lost in a crowd of metaphors and similes! The trick is to use such devices sparingly and in just the right place. This gives them power. Got it?

 

Here are just a few things to ponder… I will talk about filler and the things you can lose from the actual story tomorrow!

  • Description — this is important for allowing the reader to really ‘see inside the moment’, to visualise it as you intended them to, but they don’t need every single detail drawn in for them — just enough and perhaps more importantly to create the right mood, or tone, perhaps, even, to create the right sense of danger if you are leading them to the edge of a cliff face, for example. Sparing, yet vivid wins the day! So it really does come down to how you use your words and which ones. And if in a moment of great tension then whatever you do don’t stop to admire the view, make the description an active part of the movement itself. Look at how other writers do it!

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  • Look at things like attributions; the ‘he said/she said’ in dialogue. You will find that a lot of the time you can remove these as long as you can stay with the flow of the conversation. Better to show some body language so we know who said it. And don’t write  ‘they paused’ — create the pause with an action! None of us stop and pause, well not really! Lose adverbs that are redundant if we can see how something is done or said. Lose different words for said when said is just fine (I have talked about this before!) Punchy and sharp!

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  • Lose clichés as these are considered to be lazy prose! The tears streamed down the face… ugh! How about she dabbed her cheeks or some other more interesting way to show she was crying!

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  • Telling tags: These tell why something is done or said when it’s usually obvious! She stopped the man to ask the time because she was worried she was late. Telling! If we see her rush and ask the time as she rushes we can see it, it’s shown! See what I mean?

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  • Lose ‘that’ and ‘very’ and ‘just’: a lot of the time … see some of my deliberate crossings out. Also see the use of italics when I think the word is more functional so I left it in…  The way that he said it made her smile; he was just so angry (more active?); she was very jealous (though better to show this through actions… right?) Also think about some of the adverbs we overuse! Like ‘suddenly‘… So often there is no other way to interpret the action so lose it and just show the action!

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  • Pleonasms: nodding the headshrugging the shoulders; thinking in the mind… Where else? Get the idea?!!!

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The message here is very simple: if you can lose it, lose it. That way the writing becomes sharper! 🙂 Only repeat expressions or use words that are less functional in a sentence when part of character voice and there is a difference as I will show you later in the week!

Happy Tuesdaying!

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Why distance is great … (Writing Process Series)

We have all read how one of the best things you can do for your manuscript, once you’ve completed an edit, is to put it away and work on something else. This important part of the process is so often overlooked. With good reason of course, often writers have deadlines — especially those signed to a publisher, contract, obligations. Perhaps this is another reason why so often, a writer’s first novel, the breakthrough, is often deemed to be so much better than ones that follow. Of course this is not always the case. Hey, now isn’t that a validation for rejection and having several novels lined up when you finally get signed?

In his book On Writing, Stephen King talks about ‘resting’ a manuscript, to work on the next one and the coming back to it a few months later. And look how successful he has been.

Interestingly this is in my mind this week as I plunge back into the next novel.

I Am Wolf also benefitted from a good rest when I left it on about its 3rd or 4th draft to work on While No One Was Watching. That also benefited from a rest too.

With the latest one, it has had several drafts and surprisingly when I relocated it this week I realised I have written the whole thing including the ending.  I have gone back to this one many times and it has changed name, voice, huge sections have been deleted, it has had many incarnations. One of the problems I think is it was never a short story first (as the others were) so it had less of a defined shape. Also the plot had become far too complex and convoluted. I can not tell you how many times I sat down on my sofa with a notebook or wrote some notes in Word trying to get the plot right and not so complex. In the end with a complete draft I moved into the next novel.

And so this week I have plunged back in. And yesterday I ‘started’ to see what it needed. But sometimes, rather like the way a short story can form off set; kind of bubbling away while you’re doing something else, that’s how it’s been since last night. I knew from that buzz in my gut that came yesterday,I was  finally finding that part I couldn’t reach before.

Now it’s not quite formed yet — this epiphany is slightly softer than some might be, but it is there (and the concept of it feels BIG for the story) and I woke up this morning thinking about it. I love it when it starts to take over like that — just like I Am Wolf did a few weeks back. This morning, even before I had drunk my coffee (which is still in the pot — sipped!) I have been scribbling and I see it! So this distance thing also applies, not only to resting a manuscript, but also to letting it percolate out of sight.

So now I have worked out not only what needs to happen, but realise also how it will simplify the plot and readers won’t get lost in its complexities! It’s magic!

And I will leave you with that thought as I walk finish my coffee and walk Rosie — and then, WATCH OUT! I’M GOING IN … I might be some time!

And on this special D Day Anniversary I also think we should remember we have what we have now because of the sacrifices brave men and women made. RIP

And on this special D Day Anniversary I also think we should remember we have what we have now because of the sacrifices brave men and women made. RIP

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

 

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