Monday, August 17, 2009

Lose That Dead Weight

No. Not the love handles. Lose the extra flab in your manuscript!

Rachel Gardner has an excellent post on the topic: "Tighten Up Your Manuscript."

Here’s a checklist of things to consider cutting:

→ Adverbs, especially those with “ly” endings. Ask yourself if they’re necessary.
→ Adjectives. Often people use two or three when one or none is better.
→ Gerunds. Words that end in “ing.”
→ Passive voice: Over-use of words like “was,” "were" and "that" indicate your writing may be too passive. Reconstruct in active voice.
→ Passages that are overly descriptive.
→ Passages that describe characters' thoughts and feelings in too much detail (i.e. long sections of narrative or interior monologue).
→ Passages that tell the reader what they already know.
→ Unnecessary backstory.

And there's more.

Here’s a list of words to watch for. Carefully consider their necessity and effectiveness:

about, actually, almost, almost, like, appears, approximately, basically, close to, even, eventually, exactly, finally, just, just then, kind of, nearly, practically, really, seems, simply, somehow, somewhat, sort of, suddenly, truly, utterly, were.

What she said.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

One True Sentence

I've been revising the memoir about my father. Some days go better than others. On a not so good day last week, a friend reminded me of this Hemingway bit from A Moveable Feast:

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, 'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.' So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then, because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone else say.

I might not be in Paris, but I can still look across the suburban lawns of Upper Arlington and think, "Do not worry. Just write one true sentence."

You too can look out from wherever you write and think the same. If you like, leave a comment below and let me know where you're working and how you're doing.