Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Anatomy 101

Science was one of my favourite subjects. In fact I did very well in it. In chemistry you learn how to put various chemicals together to change their atomic structure resulting in new substances. We made esters one day using this process... Banana, mint, and nail polish. That was interesting. They actually smelt like banana, mint and nail polish even though they weren't. Of course, it's your own opinion if the resulting combination is better than the parts used to make it. I'm not partial to banana's myself and am not about to go around smelling nail polish either.

So, after a weekend of thought I have almost finished making notes all over my story. The one I have to cut and have decided that the word cut essentially means to remove parts... I don't like that word. I have now come up with a new term I'm going to use. No longer am I going to try and cut the story down by 700-800 words, rather I'm going to try and tighten it into 3500-3600 words. And to do this I am developing this elaborate process of study.

My Hypothesis:
If I know what each integral piece is and can visualize it, then I will see where it is tight and where I can tighten and condense it into less space on the page (without changing the font size :P)

My Method:
1) I must finish marking up what each sentence or idea contributes to the story.
2) Tape all 15 pages to the wall so I can see them.
3) Take giant circle drawn for the plot and I am going to take a photocopy of the marked up paper and divide it up into all it's parts: beginning, scenes, transitions, climaxes, end, and so on.
4) Tack the parts onto the circle
5) Make lines linking the various story threads with different coloured pens. Should be quite piece of work when I'm done.

My results:
Hopefully my hypothesis will be correct and I will be able to clearly see all the story threads and pieces and know why they are there. This will enable me to better be able to know what the integral parts are and to make sure I don't miss any by accident. It will also allow me to see what is condensed enough and what areas are drawn out and could be combined into shorter pieces within the story. Once all the excess words are removed I will still have the same story, but it will be stronger and more potent and take up less space on the page. Kind of like making esters, ingredient A + ingredient B = Result ABC

I love it! And yes, I suppose this is rather a wordy post :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Open Surgery

So... as a writer if step one is write the story, then rewrite and revise until one's sure it's the best it can be... send it off. Then I've finally come to step two... the editor likes it, it's just too long.

Normal revision requires changing and polishing in order to make a piece just perfect. It requires adding that little bit of detail here and there, filling out the shadows and focusing the spotlight. But cutting 700-800 words out of a 4300 word piece is more like preforming open surgery! (something I've never really done before).

It's true that in some cases less is more. However, the reverse, more is less, isn't necessarily true. One of my recent failings is to try and cram too much into too few words and in those cases a more words is definitely better. I love the way Holly Lisle approaches editing and revising. She looks at her story like a surgeon. First looking at the whole story, learning what is working as it is and why, followed by what isn't working as well. She marks the most important sections (what things absolutely need to be kept) and then the sections which need work, noting what specifically that work is. By the time she gets to the revising she is an expert on the story and how it's innards function in relation to the whole. She explains her process in her course syllabus, which can be found at http://hollylisle.com/. Unfortunately I can't afford the cost of her course at the moment, but I hope to take it in the future.

The thing that's scary about cutting ones baby open is one really has to be careful not to butcher it because no editor is going to want a butchered story. One especially has to be careful if said editor definitely wants one to resend him the revised, shorter story because he likes it. So in my case, minor surgery is more the goal, clean up any little ends, prune away any dead skin, rework the odd sentence, and condense (if possible) with deliberateness and design in order to lower the word count. The baby has to stay whole and functional. Definitely a little daunting.

So here's to being a little nervous and excited at this opportunity to learn how to lower my word count with finesse while keeping the story's integrity intact and maybe improving it in the process. A skill I definitely want (and need) to learn. Wish me luck. I'm sure I'll be writing about this more - after my successful editing job :)