Wednesday, March 18, 2015

If It Isn't Necessary - Hack It!

Authors have a tendency to put in too much stuff in their writing. I don't know if it is an issue of just trying to crank the word count up (which I do believe happens in a lot of single title projects currently out there), or if it is just an issue of not thinking. Regardless of the reason, there are far too many projects out there that need to be seriously edited and thinned out.

I think I made a reference to this here in a prior blog, but writing is really no different than writing an academic paper. With those research papers, we started with a thesis. This was that guiding force that controlled everything we did in the paper. It told us what to research. It told us how to organize the paper so we walked our reader from Point A to Point B. If we found an a article, while doing our research, that dealt with the topic, but didn't really focus on the thesis, we it.

For example, I am doing a paper about ocean acidification and the effects on coral reefs. I find a great article about people in Australia who go out and chop off hunks of coral reef for purposes of medical research. Now, while both deal with coral reefs and their destruction, this article and research is not going into my paper because it doesn't deal with the thesis.

To take it a step further, I am probably not going to spend countless hours talking about the step by step process that coral reefs go through when they expand and grow. Again, this might be interesting information, but this is taking me away from my central thesis.

As I said, this idea also applies to fiction writing. We don't need to know every meal the characters eat. We don't need a play-by-play account of what the person did getting ready for the ball. Now, if the character is OCD and we this is an integral part of the story line and character arc, then we would certainly want to see the precision of how the characters takes each brush from the carefully organized drawer. The odds, are, it isn't needed.

We talk a lot about "tightening up stories". This is what we mean. Weed that story out of all the unnecessary clutter. If you inserted a character in the story to tell your protagonist something and that is all the person is doing through the entire book, then get rid of the person. Find someone already in the story. If there isn't anyone, find another way for that person to get the idea. If anything, have the character think of the idea on their own. The odds are, the time it took to fully develop that character just to have them make the announcement that the fiance was cheating was space that could have been better used to develop the main character further.

Just continually ask yourself. Why am I putting this in the story. Is it really necessary for the grand scheme or things. You will be shocked as to what you eliminate!

No comments:

Post a Comment