Lauri had a lot to teach me about trimming and tightening unfocused story elements and overwritten prose. I still over-write my first drafts, but through her editing of my historical, Kindred, bleeding bright red all over the screen, I’m able now to go back, after a cooling off period, and the excess wordage screams at me, instead of hiding itself.
Lauri on Tightening/Trimming/Hacking-Burning-Slashing
~ I truly think when you chart out the story on index cards* and see where one thing does not carry to another or closely resembles another chapter, you’ll be chopping merrily through. Beta 4 (the version of Kindred she read) felt “loose” to me, not as focused as it could be.
*Using index cards to map out a novel, one card per scene or chapter, was something Lauri recommended to me to be sure all the scenes I’d written were really needed, or to spot places in the story where the pace was lagging, or I had neglected a subplot/character.
~ Don’t get dramatic on me here (I must have whined, or threatened to wimp out and give up!). Look, a tree is nice but when it gets all overgrown, it overtakes everything else. Can’t see around it, above it, through it… but a good trim and you have a lovely asset to the garden, that’s all. And good heavens, don’t I know how easy it is to get lost in a story, loving parts and wanting to keep parts… even though those branches are hanging in front of the window and impeding the view. We are too close to our work and it’s hard to see it clearly.
~ After reading your blog post, I had a thought. When you go through and do the index card thing, it might be cool to note if the chapter is a Macro or a Micro. Meaning, if it is a big, all-encompassing chapter, you’ll know it’s a chapter that doesn’t require details as deep as does a micro. For example, when Ian and Seona are [spoiler deleted], that’s a micro, a small and private place and time. The details percolate through the scene. When Ian is on he road encountering the coffel of slaves, that’s a Macro, a bigger scene. It’s a place where the big details are described but you don’t need the same depth as you would in a Micro.
Does that make any sense? It could be one way that will help you pare down the words because you don’t need the ocean of description in every scene. It can be a bit suffocating to the reader– so many details, sort of like a bell clanging in your head and it’s too much, too close. That’s the way I felt at the start with all of Ian’s wounds. Not to mention, I didn’t know him that well… those details worked just fine after [spoiler deleted]. By then, I knew him, I cared about him and what he was doing. He’s still too new in the beginning so I would suggest going a bit easier there– work on story to draw in the reader, rather than detail. It’ll help the top of the book be more “taut and muscular,” stuff that will capture the attention of an agent.
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