February 2, 2010

Tuesday Edit Crunch

So many of the blogs I follow have their own titled weekly schedule. Writing on the Wall has Monday Mania, Sarah M. Eden has Walkabout Wednesday, Ali Cross has Ask Ali Fridays, and so on.
I feel like I need, yes, NEED, a titled weekday of my own.
Introducing Tuesday Edit Crunch.
If that doesn't get your creative juices flowing I don't know what will. Hm.
Sounds like a breakfast cereal made of old typewriter keys.

Nonetheless, Tuesday Edit Crunch will be informative, fresh, concise, and an important part of this nutritious... blog...

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert. As a matter of fact, I am learning as I go. I am a student of the edit, if you will. But I will share my findings with you and we will traverse the vast landscape of editing and revision together. If you want to. It's your choice. I'll make you virtual cookies.

Experience: I do have some. As I have mentioned probably too many times, the revision requests for my upcoming novel, The Orchard (title still under consideration), were sizable. Instead of chucking it, or diving in, cutting and pasting to please, making a mess of it all, I read. I studied, took notes, marked pages and sites and thought and thought and thought. My friend, Carla, brought me books and a thick file of magazine articles. I took more notes. Educating Krista. I've always been a stickler for spelling and grammar, but everything I was learning refined a 388 pg. rambling manuscript I was in love with to a 328 pg. accepted manuscript I knew was what it should be. And I know we're not done with it.

Perk: I was able to take the things I learned and apply them to The Inn, the sequel I just submitted. Was the manuscript perfect? Nope (though I made my best effort). Do I expect revision requests? Yup. Am I dreading them? Maybe. Maybe not. Actually, I'm curious. And there is that little voice that thinks of this quote: "I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top."  ~English Professor (Name Unknown), Ohio University. (Go away! Go away little voice!) I'll let you know how it turns out. But my point is, when I write now, there isn't quite so much clean-up, and I have direction when I recognize something isn't quite right.

So, on to our first Crunch.
I am borrowing from a previous post (so much for fresh) today. I am going to direct you here, for a list of "expendable" words. Okay, I'll list them here as well.

a little        almost        anyway       at the present time      began to       by means of         certainly       considering the fact that         definitely       even        exactly       fairly       in order to       in spite of the fact      in the event        is     was    were       just       perhaps       probably    proceeded to       owing to the fact       quite       rather      real       really      seem       slightly       so      some       somewhat      sort of       started to       such       that      the      usually      very      which

These are words we all use, but we don't need to. These words tend to be "narrative", and pull the reader away from the story, reminding them there is an author out there somewhere making this stuff up. We want our stories to be real, and we want our readers engrossed in the worlds we create. Most of the time there will be another way to express what you are saying.* Out of this list, the words I see most overused are that, which, was, and there. Basic words we use all the time, but let me show you an example. This is from a synopsis of The Inn and I chose it because it is narrative, but I don't want it to feel that way.
Before:

Elizabeth Embry has traveled the world, living a life of glamour and fortune, and fear. When an old colleague offers her a new career opportunity, which is in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, of all places, she feels an excitement that she barely understands. The two-week trial period is anything but the private getaway she was hoping for, owing to the fact that she finds herself booked in the honeymoon suite of a woodland bed and breakfast, where her hosts greet her like family and her private life is as read as the complimentary morning newspaper.
But her friend is scheming and the handsome owner is aloof, which draws Elizabeth into a place that she never thought she wanted to be. A place that she knows she doesn’t deserve.

Now, the fixed version:


Elizabeth Embry has traveled the world, living a life of glamour and fortune, and fear. When an old colleague offers her a new career opportunity, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, of all places, she feels an excitement she barely understands. The two-week trial period is anything but the private getaway she hopes for. She finds herself booked in the honeymoon suite of a woodland bed and breakfast, where her hosts greet her like family and her private life is as read as the complimentary morning newspaper.
But her friend is scheming and the handsome owner is aloof, drawing Elizabeth into a place she never thought she wanted to be. A place she knows she doesn’t deserve.


Do you hear the difference?
*Of course, in blogging and casual emails, our voices are our own.
I promise not to borrow from older posts again, but this is something I see everywhere, and it's such a quick fix. Keep your reader in the story.

Hope you enjoyed Tuesday Edit Crunch! Watch out for the the K's, they're especially crunchy.




6 comments:

David J. West said...

Ha, we're all learning. With my first edits we shaved off probably 5,000 redundancies out of 110,000.

I know I'll do better on the second book-maybe only a couple thousand for my editor to X.

M. Gray said...

Such a good reminder. I know I have too many of those words.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, I so feel you on the editing crunch. It's a love/hate relationship I've had for the past six months.

Nisa said...

Wonderful post and great points. I'm actually going through right now and taking some of those words out.

Annette Lyon said...

Way to educate yourself! Editing really is a skill all writers should learn--and it CAN be learned.

Love the idea of Tuesday Edit Crunch! (Now I want some granola . . .)

Krista said...

Thanks, Annette! It's nice to have your encouragement!
Thank you, everyone for your comments. Elana, I've been following you. Hang in there! Nisa, wow, I'm glad you could use this!

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