Less Isn’t Always More!

editing-tips-300x230I think one of the best problems an author can have is overwriting. You shared more information than was necessary. It’s a lot easier to go back and cut than it is to add new content. At least it is for me.

The problem I struggle with is how much should I cut. I’ve been known to take a hatchet to a piece when a widdling tool would have worked much better. A quote I read recently stuck in my head and sums it up perfectly. “Less is more, unless it’s not enough.” David Corbett.

I understand and am living that quote right now. I have a project I’ve been working on for years. Yes, I said years, and before you get to critical, note that the average novel takes 7-10 years to get published. I wrote a blog on it one time to encourage my readers and myself.

At any rate, I took a hatchet to the project and lost interest in it. Every time I pick it up for editing and/or revision, I want to just put it down and be done with it. A story I once loved, has lost its appeal.

The past few days, before I even ran across this quote, I had begun to take a closer look at my work. Why wasn’t it appealing anymore? Well, for one thing, the opening wasn’t grabbing my attention and compelling me to move forward.

I deleted the prologue because I read somewhere that they were a no-no. In doing so, I lost the events that compelled the reader to move forward. I lost a thread that was interwoven into the fabric of the story and pulled everything together. I lost important details that were necessary for the reader to make sense of why certain things were happening the way they were.

The quote, “Less is more unless it’s not enough“, describes what I’ve been dealing with perfectly.  Thank goodness I don’t completely delete my work. It’s still there. My plan is to retrieve that prologue and make it my first chapter. The second chapter will be set 20 years later and the story will go from there.

And by the way, sometimes a prologue is necessary and works, but I’ll talk about that another day.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Less Isn’t Always More!

Stay Active – Revisited

active-passive.jpgWhen you write, you want to use the active voice. It’s clean, concise, and simple. The active voice is easy to read and understand.

Subject + Verb

  • Susie sang.
  • Michael ate.
  • Jeffery kicked.

Subject + Verb + Direct Object

  • Susie sang songs.
  • Michael ate soup.
  • Jeffery kicked cans.

These examples are basic, and can be embellished with adjectives, adverbs, modifiers, etc. to dress them up, but the Subject/Verb order should remain the same.

95% of your sentences should be written in the active voice. You want the doer/subject at the beginning of the sentence.

When you use the passive voice in writing, you have to introduce new parts of speech just to make the sentence mean the same as it would in active voice. The result is a wordy sentence that makes you wait to find out who the subject is.

Passive voice – Direct Object + Dead Verb + Participle form of Verb + optional Preposition + optional Subject.

The winner was written on the community board by Carol. (Passive)

Carol wrote the winner on the community board. (Active)

As you can see, passive voice is not simply a reversal of active voice. It has additions, and I haven’t discussed the fact that many passive sentences are incomplete.

The message was sent.

So the above sentence is grammatically correct, but it’s missing information. Who sent the message, and to whom was it sent?

Why would anybody use the passive voice? Well it comes in handy if you’re a businessman or politician. It allows you to avoid responsibility.

  • Your position has been eliminated. vs. I eliminated your position.
  • Your taxes will be raised. vs. I will raise your taxes.

When you’re writing a novel, you’re not trying to avoid responsibility. You’re trying to draw your reader into an exciting adventure that keeps your reader turning pages until the very end.

Keep your sentences active. Something to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Stay Active – Revisited

Plot Holes-Just For Fun :-)

Hopefully, at this point, you know what plot holes are. They are gaps or inconsistencies that go against the flow of logic established by the stories plot.

When you are writing, you know what’s happening and you may not question why Suzie is talking to Jeff about needing a job in one paragraph and working for him in the next. I’m not saying you need every little step in order for your reader to follow what’s going on. I’m sure most people don’t want to know she woke up, took a shower, put on her favorite dress, ate some Cheerios, and brushed her teeth with Crest toothpaste before walking out the door to go to work, but if Jeff gave her a job, I think that’s pretty darn important. This is a missing plot piece.

Like I said, you know what’s going to happen next so you can smooth out the inconsistencies in your mind while you’re reading, but your reader does not. They are left confused and questioning how the character got from point A to point B, or why they can’t progress to point C – when it’s the logical choice.

The following pictures showcase a few infamous plot holes that should help you understand a little better what I’m trying to say.

 

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landscape-1441755172-titanic-plot-hole

I think you get the picture. Make sure your plot makes sense. Your reader is smart and they will catch on. Push them too far and you may lose them.

Hope this gave you something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

Plot Holes-Just For Fun :-)

Dangling Modifiers :-) – Revisited

4803157_700bHave you ever read a sentence and stopped? You go back and read it again and again. Sometimes you probably laugh out loud, because it’s funny and definitely not what the author had in mind.

You want see those sentences in published work very often. By the time your manuscript hits the publishers desk, the sentences have been cleaned up.

So if you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about sentences with dangling modifiers. A modifier describes, clarifies, or gives more detail about a concept.

A dangling modifier is misplaced because it doesn’t have anything to modify. The word or words a dangling modifier should modify have been omitted or misplaced. I know you hear professionals say cut, cut, cut, but some words should not be cut.

“Always suspect an -ing word of dangling if it’s near the front of a sentence; consider it guilty until proven innocent.” –Patricia O’Connor.

Incorrect: Reading the regulations, the dog did not enter the park.

  • “Reading the regulations” is a dangling modifier.
  • The dog cannot read the regulations; the word(s) that “reading the regulations” modifies have been omitted.

Correct: After reading the regulations, I did not enter the park with my dog.

And then there’s…

The kind mother, handed out bologna sandwiches to all the children in Ziploc bags. (What were they doing in Ziploc bags?)

The robber was in his late thirties and about 6’2″, with long curly hair weighing about 160 lbs. (I think I would cut a little bit of that hair.)

The homeowner chased the intruder wearing nothing but his underwear. (Who was wearing nothing but underwear?)

Just for laughs…..

  1. Coming out of the market, the bananas fell on the pavement.
  2. With his tail held high, my father led his prize poodle around the arena.
  3. I saw an accident walking down the street.
  4. Freshly painted, Jim left the room to dry.
  5. He held the umbrella over Janet’s head that he got from Delta Airlines.
  6. Lost: Antique walking stick by an old man with a carved ivory head.
  7. The company’s refrigerator held microwavable lunches for 18 employees frozen in the top compartment.

I know most of you have dangling modifiers down, but they are so much fun.

-Jan R

Dangling Modifiers :-) – Revisited

Don’t Cut When You Should Be Whittling!

editing-tips-300x230I opened up my novel in Word and began yet another revision at the start of the year. I tell myself this is it, and I certainly hope so, however, I have made some pretty significant changes. So I may have to go back and look at it one or two more times, to make sure I followed all of the rules 🙂

Why the changes, and especially this late in the game?  I went through my manuscript and cut about 20% the previous year. The sections cut were combersome and full of backstory at times. They were weighing the story down and bringing it to a stand still. At least that’s what I thought at the time.

Well we all know writing that brings your reader to a screeching halt is a no-no, so I decided to get rid of those scenes/chapters rather than fix them. From my perspective, they were uneccessary and I didn’t want to mess with them anymore. I was done.

Following those changes, I found myself less enthusiastic and lacking the drive to complete my work. The passion was gone. The last months of 2018 were a struggle for me. I just couldn’t make myself pick up the manuscript.

I’m all for rules and understand they are important. I have read extensively on how to write a novel, took online courses, and talked to people who have published work.  I listened carefully and took notes when I heard the same thing over and over.  If everyone was saying it, it had to have merit.

One rule that I followed caused my standstill, and to be honest, it may not have been the rule, but my over zealous attempt to follow the rule. Let’s go back to the 20% I cut. I actually chopped the first two chapters of the novel. Why? They were filled with backstory. Something I felt my reader needed at the time to be able to follow a pretty complicated plot.

The rule that caused my dilemma was don’t load the front end of the story with unecessary narrative and exposition.  While the information may be necessary, you don’t want to put your reader to sleep before they get to the good stuff, and if that isn’t enough of a reason, literary agents only ask for the first five pages in most cases. You don’t want to send them five pages of narrative and exposition. You want some action. You want the good parts on display from the beginning.

I got to the good stuff right away, but at what cost. I lost my enthusiasm and I made it harder for my readers to follow what was actually going on. They were missing some key information.

I talked to a friend a couple weeks ago who had proofread the manuscript for me prior to the cuts. She isn’t an editor, but she is a professional who enjoys reading and a very bright lady. I asked her specifically about those first two chapters.

I told her about the cuts, and my concerns with those chapters weighing the story down. Her response,  “I loved those chapters. They developed the connection between myself and the characters before they were thrown into the conflict. They grounded me and made it easier to follow the story.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe confirmed what was missing, and why I was having a hard time connecting with a novel that I once loved. Instead of cleaning up the first few chapters by making them more clear and concise, instead of adding a minor conflict or looking at a way to make those chapters more interesting, I totally wiped them out, leaving the novel lacking.

My focus today and the previous week has been reworking those first few chapters and whittling instead of cutting. I still need to get to the heart of the story as soon as possible, but I can’t short change the set-up to get there.

Something to think about. Comments are always welcome. I love hearing other perspectives.

-Jan R

 

 

Don’t Cut When You Should Be Whittling!

Rewrite-itis

images559M9THLI got tickled when I first saw this word. I have to admit, I have dealt with rewrite-itis. What is it? It’s a severe condition that effects both published and unpublished writers according to The Everything Guide To Writing A Romance Novel. It means your are unable to call a book, chapter, or even a scene finished. So what causes the condition? A fear of failure or success. For me it is definitely failure.

What are the symptoms?

  • Rewriting the same scene, chapter, or book more than ten times
  • Never finishing a book, because you keep going back to polish the first chapter
  • Constantly having others read your book with the hopes they will give you some revisions to do
  • Taking your finished manuscript to the post office to mail, only to return home with it in hand for further revision

So what do you think? Do you have a case of rewrite-itis?

Rewrite-itis has a close cousin – Research-itis. Maybe you have that one too. True research is crucial to any novel, but an author needs to know when to say “Enough is enough.”

So what is the cure? Set goals and deadlines and stick to them. Remember your manuscript is your baby, but sooner or later you have to turn it loose.

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

Rewrite-itis

Be Consistent!

120822_consistency-is-key_500_youanew1-300x300Have you ever heard someone refer to writing as elegant. It’s orderly and graceful. It flows.

By adding elegance to your writing, you can turn clear, precise, but clunky prose into a musical composition.

Elegance gives your writing a tangible feeling of beauty. It makes people say wow. Elegance isn’t just the wording, but the way it is presented.

Is your style disciplined and orderly, or is it inconsistent? Presentation elegance requires consistency from the beginning of your novel to the end.

When you use dashes, do you leave spaces between the words or not?

  •  second-handed
  • second – handed

When you write titles of books, do you italicize or enclose using quotation marks?

  • Little Women
  • “Little Women”
  • ‘Little Women’

Do you use the oxford comma to separate the last item in a list?

  • She brought apples, bananas, and grapes to the picnic.
  • She brought apples, bananas and grapes to the picnic.

When you use numbers, do you spell them out using letters or simply write them out?

  • twenty-seven
  • 27

When you abbreviate countries, do you use periods following the letters or leave them out?

  • U.K. vs UK
  • U.S. vs US

I think you’re getting the picture. None of the above examples are wrong. Just remember, however you decide to express yourself in writing, be consistent.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Be Consistent!