Monday, October 11, 2010

Tighten tighten

Tighten tighten.

One thing you need for revisions: a screwdriver. Not a real screwdriver. A language screwdriver. I read through the manuscript today on the lookout for unnecessary words. Maybe singletons, maybe whole paragraphs. One chapter, which incidentally was the first scene written and is now Chapter 13 (The Graverobber, in case the numbers change), went from 3500 words (it was the longest chapter in the book) to 2900. There was just stuff that had been in it for so long, I was used to looking at it. I'd forgotten to wonder whether every word was singing for its supper. Turns out: nope. Ciao. Tighten tighten.

A lot of it is just super-simple stuff like this:

before:
The long mustache that had once been his pride hung lank and tangled.

after:
The mustache that had been his pride hung lank and tangled.


before:
The elevator door closed, and she was alone with herself and her reflection

after:
The elevator door closed, and she was alone with her reflection

before:
She sensed from the tenor of Z’s voice that

after:
She sensed from Z’s agitation that


(Here's a doozy. Youch. To think this clunker might have snuck into the book.)
before:
A look of dismay edging on horror slowly spread over his face as understanding dawned.

after:
Dismay spread over his face as understanding dawned.


Those cuts add up! You can slice hundreds of words like this and never even miss them. This is an easy, restful part of revisions. That whole "writing new scenes" malarkey is so much harder, and I'm not *quite* done with that bit yet. I have one lingering section that needs some new material written to seam some stuff together. It makes my brain feel tired just thinking about it. Can't I just fiddle with my screwdriver instead? Well. I'm almost there. So close! Another day or two of this, and it's off into the ether again!

* * *
By the way, cool news: I am going to be a guest of honor at the 2011 Sirens Conference in Vail, Colorado! I'm so excited about this! It's a conference dedicated to women in fantasy literature, and it just happened last weekend -- wish I could have been there! The theme this year was "fairies" about which I have a thing or two to say :-) Next year, oh, this is so cool. Next year the theme is MONSTERS. Mwahahahahahahaha! In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, as in, I think, all my books, the idea of what really makes a monster is central theme. It's a whole year off, but I'm psyched. Also psyched about the other two guests of honor: Justine Larbalestier and Nnedi Okorafor, who are both AWESOME!

19 comments:

Jennie Bailey said...

Oh, I love your bright screwdriver picture! I'm going to being tightening tomorrow. Sometimes I cringe before I tighten. I look around, guilt-ridden to think that I could have written something that...that...dripping with unnecesssary words (usually adjectives in my case - on one page, I cut TWENTY!). Thank you for sharing your process with us. It's nice to know that authors who write beautiful stories like yours have to cut as well!

tone almhjell said...

Love the befores and afters! The afters look so self-evident, but they're just so hard to get onto the screen that first time. And yay for the Sirens Conference!

Colene Murphy said...

Awesome advice! Congrats on the honor too!

Shveta Thakrar said...

Yep, Sirens was just awesome! I am wearing my magenta faerie T-shirt right now. ;) Congrats on being GoH for next year. I'm going to try to make it because monsters and women (Medusa, anyone?), well, who can turn that down? Not me, anyway!

Tere Kirkland said...

Yup, I always see places to tighten--I've been trying not to be such a perfectionist while drafting, so I know my screwdriver's going to get a workout when I start editing.

Great post!

a cat of impossible colour said...

Looking forward to that stage! Am currently in the adding-pages-and-rewriting bit. Although I always want to be at the part of the process where I'm not ... very contrary.

And huge congratulations, too!

Mae said...

Personally, I like those little descriptivenesses. Instead of 'frightened and fierce green eyes', I say 'the frightened and fierce green flame burning behind her eyes'. You can picture those eyes better- like it has been drummed into our heads since third grade; show, don't tell.

By the way, I'm in a book club, and this month we had to do a project on a fantasy book- I chose Blackbringer. I just had a faerie grandmother start telling the story- and then summarized Chapter One. Hopefully I'll inspire some people to read Blackbringer! (And, later, Silksinger.)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mae--those "before" sentences had character and flavor. I think there's too much emphasis, these days, on using as few words as possible because it's assumed that all audiences have the attention span of a hummingbird on heroin. Remember when it was okay to the taste of words linger on the tongue, enjoying the sensation behind every sentence? Whatever happened to that, fellow writers?

Andrea Mack said...

Tightening up is so important. Thanks for making me think about it a little more deeply.

faye said...

I'm so excited for Sirens next year! When the chairs mentioned the "squeeing" at the farewell breakfast they mostly meant me. :)

Stephanie Perkins said...

Sentence tightening! Yaaaay!

Best! Part! Of! Writing!!

Your work is such a perfect fit for the MONSTERS conference. :) Congratulations!

storyqueen said...

Will you still like me if I say I hate sentence tightening?

I mean, give me a big, fat, messy first draft any day.

I like best creating the chaos....I like least polishing the mess into a shine.

Shelley

R.L. LaFevers said...

I have been hearing so much about this conference! I might have to put it on my To Do list.

Loved your examples of tightening sentences!

Julie Anne Lindsey said...

What a great post! I'm doing edits right now and it seems THAT I have a problem THAT needs help. Perhaps you can help with THAT. LOL I cut out over 100 unnecessary "that"s hiding all though my manuscript. It was very ridiculous, I just hope THAT i don't talk like THAT. LOL! *sigh*

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Katie said...

really great befores and afters! Thanks and good luck!

Amber Lough said...

I shared this post with my critique partner and she is now going to have her High School English class read it. She said she starts every year with Oliver's Summer Day and they constantly talk about that line all year long.

Hopefully you'll a new crop of fans!

Amber said...

Neat! I want to go hear about monsters!!

I just had to cut cut CUT about half of this grant I wrote (trying to get new playground stuff for the kids school). It made me cry, because I was reallllly trying to make them feel sorry for our kids. lol! But really, you are right that you can say what needs to be said with less...

I guess. lol

:)

not wendy said...

I`m so glad I stumbled across this! Read Blackbringer and liked it, looking to read Silksinger next. Do you have any advice on sticking to a novel? It seems that I have written hundreds of beginnings only to be dissuaded by another idea the following evening. Thanks!

xx