Author's Blog

Write Less to Mean More

I assume that the process of editing varies for every writer, but regardless of how it’s done, it is a very necessary and painstaking process. There may be writers out there who can publish their first draft, who require no extra polishing or very little; I am not one of those. Lacking in that wonderful talent, I am forced to go through many different stages of editing to bring my work to an acceptable level.

The editing stage that I’m currently working on is tightening up my novel, which also relates to my last blog – Frustrating Word Count. This tightening step makes my writing better, the information more concise, and the story clearer, with the wonderful side effect of reducing word count.

Edit Written Work

I use various methods for tightening my writing:

Removing my excess wordage. What I mean by excess is using one word to say what I sometimes say in three or four words. This type of excess wordage creeps all through my text. For example: The science of flight has advanced over the years. This can be better written, Aeronautics has advanced over the years, making the noun stronger, more noticeable, and the word-count less. I have just cut four unnecessary words.

Remove my weak modifiers, words I use for emphasis. I tend to use modifiers a lot in my writing and they really aren’t necessary. See, I did it again! The modifier really is superfluous in that sentence.

Remove my unneeded nouns. For example, The amount of coffee I drink is too much. I should write instead, The coffee I drink is too much. There go another two more words!

Get rid of my extra verbs, articles, and prepositions that profusely find their way into my writing. For example, I will make changes to my story. Instead, I will change my story. The verb, make is unnecessary. Another example, The subjects that are found in public school are basic. Better would be, The subjects in public school are basic. I have just dropped three more words!

Use concise writing. For this, I use my Dictionary of Concise Writing by Robert Fiske. I use too many wordy phrases in my writing that can be reduced to fewer words. An example he gives in his book: “Mr. Branch was an acquaintance of Miss Gregory.” This is better written: “Mr. Branch knew Miss Gregory.”

Concise Writing

It’s amazing how losing excess words makes the writing clearer and better to read.

I’m sure that I have other bad habits to my writing that I’m blinded to when editing, but that’s where my much needed editor helps to teach me.

If you have any helpful tips for me, I would love to hear them.

Choosing Names

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;” William Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare

I follow many writers’ blogs, and just today, I was reading the storyfix.com blog, which discussed five more mistakes that reveal a writer as a rookie. The blog referred to, what it calls,“The name game.” How rookies give their characters names that sound too much alike or pick names that it says are “unpronounceable, unfamiliar and difficult to remember.” It made me think about the process that I use to choose the names for my characters and places.

I find the names of characters, places, and things to be one of the most important parts in building a story, so I take it a step further; I heavily research all my names. I have several name books in my library collection, although with the Internet library, there is an even vaster access to names, their meanings, and their origins.

Book of Names

Depending of course what genre I’m writing in, it will determine the flexibility in my choice of names. Regardless of what the genre may be, the name must suit not only the character but also its gender, the time-period of the story, and the location of the story.

Names are terms that distinguish people, places, and things from other people, places, and things. I look at a name as being more of a descriptive label, something that defines a person, place, or thing.

When I go about picking a name for a character, I fly through meanings of names to find one that defines my character. Then I study the name and ask myself these five questions:

Does it suit my character?

This is probably, by far, the most important factor that I take into consideration when picking a name, although the least rational one. For me, names provoke certain feelings and images. Some names sound more masculine or feminine; others more timid or bold, or even good or evil. I pick a name that sounds like the personality of the character.

Is it easy enough to pronounce?

I write predominately fantasy, so I have more flexibility to pick distinctive names, but I still try to pick names that are easier to pronounce so the reader doesn’t struggle with remembering the name and can enjoy the story.

Does it fit the time-period of the story?

A name needs to fit the period that it is being used in. There are newer names and older names. Some names were not around in certain times, so I make sure to date my names and pick them accordingly.

Does it suit the gender of the character?

Is the name suitable for the gender of my character? Although Taffy is a man’s name in Welsh, in most areas, it is a more common feminine name. I would not pick this name for an authoritative masculine-type hero.

Does it suit the character’s heritage?

If I’m writing a story about a Spanish conquistador, it would be unrealistic for me to use a Russian name like Yuri for my Spanish hero.

There are, of course, always exceptions to the rules, which depend on my storyline, but for the most part, the name I choose reflects the total character and his journey.

In all, picking names is a personal preference of the writer, but I feel that following these guidelines helps me to make the chosen names more interesting, suitable, and sensible to the story line.

Frustrating Word Count

I am currently working on tightening up one of my manuscripts, a challenging task to say the least but a very necessary one.

*Word count is vital in the publishing industry.

Word Count

My editor, Pat Lobrutto, always impresses on me how PP&B (Printing, Paper, and Binding) costs affect decisions made at each level of the publishing process from submissions to acquisitions.

My current task is to chop about 20,000 words off my story. Yikes!

As a creator of a story, it is difficult to achieve objectivity in order to make those cuts effectively. After all, everything seems important in one’s own writing.

Here are some tips that I have found helpful:

  1. To distance yourself from the book for a time, a recommendation that came from my editor. Take a week or two and not read or work on the story. You’ll be surprised how differently you view your work after that time. You see mistakes you didn’t see before. You find sections that are too drawn out or redundant. It gives you emotional distance from it, allowing you to be more critical of your work.
  2. Take each sentence and tell yourself that for every word you eliminate from it, you’ll receive a dollar. It’s a shame one doesn’t actually get the money. I had read this tip a while back, but unfortunately, I can’t remember where, sadly not permitting me to give the originator credit for the helpful advice.
  3. Zoom in on your words to at least 200%, allowing you to focus your attention solely on that one sentence, thereby, not being distracted by any other words around it. Enlarging it makes the words clearer, giving you a better perspective of your work. I stumbled across the idea one day when I found myself being distracted with the sentences before and after the one, I was working on.
  4. I have two trusted books–a must for every reference library–called, The Dictionary of Concise Writing that gives you alternatives to wordy phrases, and The Dimwit’s Dictionary that gives you alternatives to overused words and phrases, both by Robert Hartwell Fiske. Redundancy phrases like, ‘for all practical purposes’ can be cut down to the word ‘essentially’, eliminating three words. Addressed are ineffectual phrases, metaphors, infantile phrases, clichés, redundancies, and so on, all which add wordiness to a story and when removed not only decrease word count and tighten up the writing but makes a better written story.

Typing Words

Despite my best attempt with all these good tips at my disposal, I’m sure to need help in the end and that is where my talented editor comes in, thankfully!