Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Less Equals More

When I completed my first novel, I was proud. Excited. Thrilled. Confident that it was perfect as-is.

I sent queries to serveral publishers and agents. When my manuscript was requested within a week from a major publisher, I was proud. Excited. Thrilled. Confident that the editor would see my novel as perfect, as-is.

When she replied to me a month later that she loved the story but the length was a problem and if I chose to edit it, she would reconsider it, I was not as proud, excited, thrilled or confident.

She wanted 30,000 words edited. Erased. Gone for good.

30,000.

That's a 3 with four zeros after it.

That's a lot of words.

I was determined to do it. I was worried my story wouldn't survive the chop. When I finished the edit, I cut 32,000 words and my story improved immeasurably. Fast-paced. No extraneous anything to detract from the suspense or character-building. I grabbed the reader from page one and said, "Hang on, it's going to be an exhilarating ride."

I leared something valuable. Less is more. Don't take four paragraphs to say what can be shown in a sentence or two of dialogue. Don't belabor an emotional turning point with a character when you can convey the same thing using action. Get rid of "that" as much as possible. Knock off the "huffed, chortled, exclaimed etc." and stick with "said and asked". It improves the flow and is less distracting to the reader. Make sure your pages have a lot of white space. Only fans of Clancy or Kafka like to see four pages of solid, dense exposition.

Say volumes in eloquent, precise prose and trust your reader to follow you.

Action really does speak louder than "words".

7 comments:

  1. Good deal!

    I've noticed as I've been doing more reading in the urban fantasy line (is that what genre Alexa Tate is going under?) that seems to be the general rule of thumb.

    Fast-paced scenes and books that really fly by. Which I like.

    I was re-reading one of my favorite fantasy books last night and realized that that genre seems to do it a little differently. The books tend to be a little longer in word count and there is some devotion to longer paragraphs of description and conversation.

    That said you're right in that there's a huge difference between good description that takes up less space and that whole "show don't tell" monster.

    Just a random observation on my part. *grins* (oh and I took the scalpel to the beginning of the book last night, since I can't seem to fix it no matter how many times I try I'm just going to start over!)

    Katy

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  2. Alexa Tate will be either urban fantasty or paranormal (not completely sure what the difference is)...whatever my agent decides is the category.

    I've noticed that trend in some fantasy books as well and in some I can handle it, others I just put the book down and can't make myself pick it up. I'm too busy to wade through so much unless the voice really captures me.

    I wish I'd saved my original opening for my Dying To Remember novel (currently at Hachette Group). It was so horrendous. Celeste Bradley (writes historical fiction) did a read through of my first seven or eight chapters and told me if she'd just read the beginning, she'd think I couldn't write.

    Ack!

    I did what you did and finally scrapped the first three chapters and started over.

    Then I took a scalpel to that and started over again (after the rest of the novel was finished).

    My final opening rocked, if I do say so myself. It looked nothing like the original but all the pertinent plot points and character development were there.

    I think I did better on Alexa but I did rewrite the first chapter a few chaps in when I got to know her character better.

    I'm sure I'll rewrite it at least once more before submitting. Like Fitzgerald said, "The art of writing is the art of re-writing."

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  3. I'm sure I'll rewrite it at least once more before submitting. Like Fitzgerald said, "The art of writing is the art of re-writing."

    *applauds* So true.

    I once met a woman who told me she never wrote rough drafts. *snort, snicker, cough* That everything she wrote was perfect the first time.

    Oookay.

    *laughs* I still have the opening to the first book I wrote. This horrible sci/fi story I hope I can still save with a complete rewrite. It was this dry as dust excerpt from a history book (of all things) guaranteed to put you to sleep! :D

    Nice to know I've improved a little.

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  4. A history book exerpt...ouch.

    Mine was a very cliched man nearly runs girl down in storm and has to rescue her...I thought it heightened suspense to tell the readers next to nothing.

    Wrong!

    So, I've improved too and will continue to do so.

    Speaking of improved...I'll send feedback from your other chapter soon but can I just say...you've got something there. Compelling heroine, instant action/drama/tension...good stuff.

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  5. Obviously I need spell check for my comments.

    Excerpt.

    Sheesh.

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  6. Mine was a very cliched man nearly runs girl down in storm and has to rescue her...I thought it heightened suspense to tell the readers next to nothing.

    Wrong!

    So, I've improved too and will continue to do so.


    *giggles* Ouch.

    Yup. *nods* You've improved. I was sucked in from the beginning on Alexa Tate.

    Speaking of improved...I'll send feedback from your other chapter soon but can I just say...you've got something there. Compelling heroine, instant action/drama/tension...good stuff.

    Hey thanks! *smiles* Jefferson came about as an amusing side-game. It was just a fun story I was telling for some friends. Somewhere along the way I discovered I apparently have a talent for erotica and the damn thing turned into a novel.

    I'm hoping I can get to the same level with the fantasy. (though if I hadn't cut my teeth on that Jefferson probably wouldn't be nearly as good as she is)

    It's a race at the moment to see who gets an agent offer first. I think Jefferson might win. *laughs* She's never been very good about losing.

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  7. I love the challenge of improving my craft. The thrill of finally getting that perfect scene that both flows beautifully and packs a serious punch is incredible!

    I can't wait to finish this first Alexa book so I can land an agent and publisher.

    Can't wait to hear about your success as well!

    And as per your earlier comment - I'm willing to bet my favorite pair of strappy jeweled stilhettos that woman who thought she never needed a rough draft is UNPUBLISHED.

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