Thursday, May 13, 2010

My laurels

No, not blogging about my garden. I've yammered enough about that elsewhere. I don't have any actual laurel bushes growing. Not sure I would recognize one. Maybe I'll look them up. Then I'll know that upon which I've been resting.

I have been busy un-writing. Un-writing is the process by which one takes a perfectly good 52,000+ word manuscript and systematically cuts it to 50,883 and counting (down). Chopping words. "Tightening." Putting the whole thing on a diet devoid of "he said", "she said", "so", "that", and "just". Someone stop me before I have to either buy a whole new wardrobe of sub-genre (like "novella"), or else add scenes. Scenes without dialogue tags. Because I use too many of them.

I am taking an on-line self-editing class over at, and have been treating my poor short contemporary as a whipping boy. Leap, my sci fi, does not have a "bye", just a temporary reprieve. So far, I'm learning a bit, and practicing a lot. And I need practice. And I've got a running list of my own writing sins and exactly what sort of penance I should be doing for each. Here goes so far:

Upon this manuscript, thou shalt
1. Run spellcheck. Seriously. Ignoring the cases where MS Word things that "goddamnit" is a misspelling of "goldsmith", but otherwise heeding the almighty dictionary.

2. Highlight all dialog tags such as "said", "asked", "muttered". Then write them out. Thou shalt refrain from using the structure "blah blah blah," he said, as he did something far more interesting.

3. Thou shalt not use two spaces whereupon one space is required. Find and replace. And repeat until it says it found none to replace. Because I like my space bar and sprinkle it generously thorughout my writing.

4. Highlight every "its" and "it's" throughout the manuscript. And examine each one individually. Not because you don't know the difference, but because sometimes the right-hand pinky fails to heed your warnings.

5. Highlight "garbage" words: that, so, just, very, really, totally, practically. This list may grow. So far, I'm keeping most of the ones I find in dialogue because they sound more natural in speech. And I'm toasting ones that are truly extraneous. And leaving a whole lot more highlighted because blue and yellow blobs all over the file will make me come back and re-read when I have more brainpower.

The class isn't even half over. So maybe I'll be back with a few more commandments.

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