Friday, February 6, 2009


That's right. I'm almost there. The revision process is taking longer this time, partially because of the stops and starts due to the new grandson's arrival and partially because I'm getting better at it. Yep. Better.

As my word-count rises (the number of words I've written in my efforts to become a novelist) and as my betas keep coming back with questions and those big purple marks, I'm beginning to notice errors on my own. I have some bad habits that I'm trying desperately to break.

For example: dialogue tags. For some reason (mostly attributed to those creative writing courses I took while in college), I tend to force a position on the speaker. Joe banged on the fireplace mantle. "Get out," he yelled! In reality, it should read something like this: "Get out!" Joe shouted, his fist pounding the mantle. The second presentation makes the words ring louder in the reader's mind and it gives old Joe an opportunity to emphasize the language. See? I am getting better.

Like all writers, my bad habits don't stop there. Because my work falls under the title "literary," I tend to wax eloquent when eloquence is unnecessary. You see, I love words and the images words produce in the mind. I use a lot of them, too many sometimes. The writers of the New Testament knew best. The shortest verse in the Bible is the most powerful. "Jesus wept." Two words. The Messiah weeping over the city of Jerusalem, looking down at the corruption in the streets, seeing the dim and bloody future. "Jesus wept." Instead of the long winded explanation, the writer chose to leave it to the two word, simple sentence. Those two words leave a lingering image in the mind of the reader. They're all that's necessary to get the point across.

Me? Well, I might have mentioned that it was dusk, that the sun had colored the sky a royal purple, or I might have noted the clouds grown red in the dying light of the sun. See? I'd have mucked it up. Never use eleven words when two will do. No matter how beautiful the passage, no matter how glorious the image, simplicity is best in dress and in writing. Words should never be measured by their beauty. They should be measured by their power to get the message across. They should be measured by their ability to advance the story. "Jesus wept" is powerful enough to make any believer hang their head in shame. That's what the author wanted. That was the point of the passage.

Now, I'm off to slice and dice, to remove those wonderful words I love so well. The Big Dawg calls it 'killing your darlings.' In many ways, she's right. I love words, images, metaphors. They are my darlings, and so, I must learn to kill them. True, I keep some passages in special files, leaving them only injured as I remove them from my work. Some 'darlings' simply must be remembered, saved for a day when, with a tiny tweak, they can be resurrected, reused some place where they leave the mark this author intends.

1 comment:

. said...

Creating the mood and the image can indeed be done for pages and pages...or can be done briefly. It depends on what's needed for that passage and at that time.

Keep on keeping on...the more you catch your own errors, the fewer anyone else ever sees. ;-D

Learning how to kill your darlings is a huge step. It's a vital step, as well. Congrats on doing it!