Lose Weight! Feel Great!

Stephen King said that the finished novel should be 10% smaller than than the first draft. That means, in your process of revising, cut ten percent. Now, having read a lot of Stephen King, I can see why that works for him. He’s one of those people that writes a LOT and goes into huge amounts of detail and specifics. I don’t know that this rule would work for everybody, but I do think it’s worth a look.

But what is the ugly fat of the writing, that should be cut out? Well, here are a few things to look for.

Adverbs. They’re evil. Sometimes they’re a necessary evil, but at least in my own work, if I cut out 95% of all adverbs, I have strengthened the writing.

Too many ‘he said’s. This is a fault in my work that I run into frequently. It’s because I read very fast, I have decided. Here’s how it works. I put in an action tag to show who’s talking, but I also put in ‘he said’ in the middle of the dialogue. To me, it’s an instinctive matter of pacing. I want there to be a pause in the sentence, a momentary breath on the part of the speaker. But I read extremely fast (lots of practice) and to someone who doesn’t read as fast, there’s already a pause. It’s not necessary for me to insert one. So I usually have too many saids.

Details that don’t go anywhere. I don’t usually have my work plotted, planned, outlined or synopsized (is that a word?) before I write. So sometimes I will have a little side idea that ended up not being important. That needs to go.

Anything that isn’t the story. Pare it down. This is where it gets a little philosophical and mushy—not as clear cut as finding and strangling the adverbs. But it can’t really be said more clearly. Find what isn’t needed to tell the story you’re here to tell and take it out. If it’s nice, save it in a junk file, and you can use it another time. But if it isn’t necessary to the reader’s understanding of the characters, ability to follow the story, or emotional response, then it must go.

Story weight loss: it’s important in your first, most substantial revision pass.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sunfaerie
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 18:26:19

    How catchy! Lose word “weight” and your story is better. I have an issue with Vivanka in that there is a lot of she/she/Viv/Gigi in the sex scene. I don’t know how to make that one more readable. But it’s a moot point really, because I haven’t even finished the frakking thing yet! 😉

  2. asherose
    Sep 16, 2008 @ 19:48:23

    It is difficult. I recently wrote m/m erotica, a shortish story (compared with my usual stuff) and it was difficult to tell which ‘he’ was doing what! It’s OK to use the name more often than normal in a situation like that. It’s also possible to use constructs like ‘the redhead’ or ‘the older girl’ or whatever, but that can very easily be overused. Anyway. Keep writing it! I want more! MORE I tell you! Muaaahahahahah!

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