Monday, December 13, 2010

'Showing' the Way to Reduce Word Count

Show Don't Tell all the instruction books on writing tell us. But how to weave the all important character development or that 'the-entire-book-depends-on-this' backstory into action?

Naive beginner writer that I am, I thought I WAS showing, mostly. Especially in my first scene. I thought I had nailed it! Landed the reader right into the important stuff. It wasn't until I got my first, honest critique that I saw how far off I was.

So here I am, revising again...And enjoying it! I need to cut 10-15K words (at least), and now I am really seeing how easy this will be!

Excerpt from previous RESET draft (a mid-story excerpt, so as not to give anything away!):

I wasn’t sure why it was taking me so long to make a decision, but I stood for what seemed a ridiculously long time staring down into the top drawer of my dresser. Archie would arrive, hungry at the river anItalicy minute and since it was my turn to bring snacks, I should hurry up and choose what I was going to wear already.

Archie was always starving. I was never quite sure where he put it all and wondered if his voracious appetite would slow down once he finished growing up and all the puberty stuff was over and done with. Maybe, as his high speed metabolism slowed down, he would get fat when he was older. I hoped the sad little tuna sandwiches I had made would fill the hole in his stomach somewhat, because there was no hope of pilfering anything better from the kitchen; I didn’t want to have to explain to my mother or tell her where I was going. She didn’t approve ...

BLAH BLAH BLAH for 1000 more words or so...

YAWN. *Puts book down never to pick it up again*

So, obviously this needed to be cut ruthlessly.

Here's what it became:

"Nice swimsuit." Archie smirked at the frilly pink thing I had, for some reason, chosen over my regular swim attire of cutoffs and a boy's undershirt. "Did you bring the sandwiches?"

I thought about the tired looking tuna fish sandwiches I'd packed. "I didn't have time to get much," I lied. "I had to finish my homework." The truth was, I didn't want any questions from my mother. If I had taken anything else, she would have noticed, asked where was I going, with whom and that sort of thing.

Archie grabbed my bag, peering in. "That's it? If I had known you were going to be so stingy, I would have had my mom pack the lunch,” he complained.

Guilt heated my face as I remembered what Mrs. Baldwin had packed last time - thick ham sandwiches and giant oatmeal cookies. I was ashamed at my own lack of effort. I was the rich girl, after all. That last lunch Archie brought probably emptied the Baldwin’s pantry.

There's still some telling, but I think these paragraphs are better balanced now. It still may be cut completely...Nothing is safe! *laughs evilly* But this is the idea behind my current editing craze!

Happy writing (and editing)!

No comments:

Post a Comment