Writing long…and short

I don’t think it’s a lie to say I’m verbose. As in, long winded, wordy, loquacious, garrulous…you get the message. My daughter read something of mine once and critiqued it by asking, “why do you say the same thing three times, differently? Why not just say it once, effectively?”

So happy her Dartmouth education paid off, because, really, she was right.

I write fast – no surprise there, since I talk and think fast.  Quick witted is what an admirer said of me once. My first drafts go on for hundreds of pages. Dialogue, exposition, explanation. Words and words and words. I just write whatever comes into my head while my fingers follow. I talk this way, as well, so it’s not a bombshell to admit my writing reflects this. If I got paid by the word I’d be a quadrillionaire ( if there is such a thing).

Even now, as I’m typing this, I find myself saying the same thing in different ways just  to make sure you, dear reader, get it.

Robert Parker and Elmore Leonard were two of my favorite writers when I was penning mysteries. Their dialogue was always spot on, even if it was a one word rebuke or answer to a question, and their descriptions required no more than a sentence or two for the reader to get the visual. They trusted their readers to understand what they were trying to convey and we always did. I live to write this way. The nicest compliment a reader can give me is that they “vividly saw what I wrote when they read it.”

I just submitted a story for a new series that will be coming out next Valentine’s Day. The word cap was 10-20 K, maximum. My stories are usually 85,000-100,000 words, easily. Writing this story for submission was an excellent way for me to learn to curtail my logorrhea. First draft was 27,615 words – and I thought all of them should be kept. No. They couldn’t. I had to eliminate at the very least 7,615. That’s a full scene for me.

Second draft I got it down to 22,005. Still not enough.

I had a dream one night on how to tighten a scene and BAM! the next day I got it down to roughly 14,500. This was good. I read the story at least 20 times, gave it to a friend and read little snippets to my coworkers.  They all agreed I should leave it as it stood. Don’t add. Don’t subtract.

I agreed. Today I submitted it to my Editor. We’ll see what happens, but this exercise taught me the benefit of culling extraneous words, tightening longwinded and rambling scenes, and focusing in on the specifics of the story and not worrying about the extra stuff no one needs to know about. As a writer, this is a good thing.

It’s not exactly a bad thing as a person either, since I do tend to ramble on and on and……..

 

 

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Filed under Characters, Dialogue

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