Thursday, August 11, 2016

Manuscript and Desk Cleaning Day

Every now and then, it is time to do a little Spring cleaning. OK, it doesn't have to be spring, but cleaning up around the house, the office, the garage and even the closet is a good thing. When we do this, not only do we feel better because things look better, but we now have room to do more things. When we clean the closet, it means a trip to the mall for some more shopping. When we clean the house, we can now think about rearranging the living room, or even getting that one picture you wanted for sometime.

For authors, this activity will have a huge impact on your writing. Doing a little cleaning around your writing space as well as your manuscript will give you a new insight on how you approach your story.

Let's start first with your writing space. Clear off that desk of all the things that have been piling up for some time. Just like your closet, if you haven't needed the item for a while, it is time to put it in a filing cabinet or throw it away. If it is a project that still needs to be finished, find a place other than your desk. As long as it is sitting there, it is going to distract you. Every time you sit down to write your story, you see it and think, "I really should get around to doing that."

Next, take the time to clean off that computer monitor. Mine happens to be a touch screen so I have to really do that every now and then. Otherwise, I have to type around those sticky fingerprints.

Now it is time for making things nice around your desk. Sharpen those pencils, get some new note paper and Post-it notes, buy some new pens, refresh that picture on your desk... you get the idea.

Many employers have figured out that if the environment is friendly and comfortable, people will be much happier. Think about when someone brings in snacks for the office? The Microsoft campus here in the Seattle area has lounge areas, open lighting, great snack areas, basketball courts and so forth. If this is just like a resort, you stay longer.

The same with writing.

And now it is time to hit the manuscript you are working on. It is time to clean that bad-boy up! Today will not be about writing but will be about hacking away at the story.

A lot of you have heard the phrase, "tightening up your story." What this simply means is getting rid of all of those scenes, phrases, passages, paragraphs dialogue and even chapters that are doing nothing to advance your story. I know, at the time, you thought you really needed that scene, but when you go back and look at your story, you will find that it does nothing more than to suck the air out of the pacing and drag things down.

Many of those scenes are simply plot devices. You have crafted a way to get your character from Point A to Point B. In some cases, you created characters just to give a piece of new information to the characters. In other cases, you filled the scene because you had to get the characters angry with each other on the way to the in-laws house. For each of these cases, you can probably find another route.

  • Use a montage effect to describe how idyllic the last week was at the lake with the hero. 
  • Use a time tag to tell us how much time passed by.
  • Have a character who is already in the story tell the other character the news.
  • Have your main character figure something out for himself or herself.
While this might hurt because "you really liked that scene" also realize that you have now freed up space to do something else.

Your homework today. Clean up! Let me know how things work out.

1 comment:

  1. You have no idea how badly I needed this post today!!! I'm a bit of a clutter bug and normally it doesn't bother me, but some days it makes me want to pull my hair out. When I do finally clean up, I can think better. Thanks for the kick in the rear today.