Monday, October 17, 2005

Self Editing

I'm still reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. As I review my short story and some of my more serious posts, I see several violations of the techniques described in this excellent book. Some people would be depressed by such revelations, but I find it invigorating. Anyone who is serious about writing knows when there is something that just isn't right with a piece of work. This book gives me the tools to dissect and correct, and gives many examples of bad habits and how to correct them. I see myself in the bad habits sections time and again. I have a few good habits too, so it's not all bad.

Here's an example of a no-no from my post, Away From Anna:

"Where's Clay?" I asked with barely concealed panic.

Here I have explained to the reader my panic, instead of showing it with physical action. I could have said something like:

My eyes darted wildly about the room as I let out a fluttering breath. "Where's Clay?"

I'm not sure about the prose, but at least here I am painting a picture in the reader's mind.


In other news, the Cardiac Cowboys stand alone atop the NFC east. My readers aren't football fans, so I won't bore you with the details. Let's just say the Cowboys made it close once again, but did indeed pull it out in the end, leaving me broken and breathless on the floor.

I tell myself every year, "Let it go man. It's just a game." Football is the only drug I have left, if you don't count caffeine. Things could be worse.


I have a new inspiration for a short story. I have a beginning and a killer ending, but the middle part is a bit fuzzy. It passed the initial litmus test; namely, my wife. This could possibly be the start of something wonderful (cue inspirational music).


Eve said...

I wondered what you would think about yesterdays name - Cardiac Cowboys are correct. When they talked to Drew on the news about whether he had said anything to Keyshawn about his fumble, he grinned and said "no I tried that once already". LOL
I'm not quite ready for the editing part right now - it's just a real struggle to find the time to sit down and get the story written. Good luck!

Sadie Lou said...

My eyes darted wildly about the room as I let out a fluttering breath. "Where's Clay?"
See, I like the other way you said it. This is very wordy and it takes too long to get to the question that is asked. I never liked that style of dialoge. I like it short and sweet. The first way appeals more to me.

Scott said...

Eve - The book is officially about editing yourself, but it's really about doing it right the first time. You should check it out.

Sadie - My example was wordy. I could have said, "My eyes darted about the room," or something more pithy. The point is not to tell.

Diana said...

That's a great book! I've found it very useful.

Mr. T said...

Not much of a footbal fan but always a Cowboy's fan... I grew up with Cowboy fans so its imbedded into my life. :)

Cowboy defense is definitely saving them this season.

jenbeauty said...

I may get around to picking up that book but would be too scared to see all my!

Can't wait for the next one Scott.

No comment on Cowboys as I am in a family of Browns fans.

Beth said...

Scott, I break all the rules when writing. Of course, that's what re-writes are for ... oh, and editors. =)

Scott said...

Diane - It's nice to have your opinion on it, as I am finding it to be an incredible resource. Good to see you around. I hope your month of power-writing is treating you well.

Mr T - It would be so cool to be around other Cowboys fans for a change. I've always lived in the heart of enemy territory.

Jen - Then you sort of know what it's like to be a boys fan in the down years, except when is Cleveland ever up? That's not intended to be a knock, but isn't Baltimore the old Cleveland Browns? And then they win a championship? That hurts. Coming from Akron, I have a soft spot for Cleveland, and even went to a Browns game. They love their team. I saw a man crying in the stands when they lost to Seattle that day.

Beth - I'm one of those anal retentives that can't write too far ahead without looking back and rereading twenty times. So getting right the first time is my modus operandi. You are ahead of the game if you know you are breaking the rules.

The Zombieslayer said...

Scott - My eyes darted wildly about the room as I let out a fluttering breath. "Where's Clay?"

excellent! I'm so glad you're getting something out of this book. Like I said, this book and Shrunk and White's has done wonders to my writing.

Scott said...

Yeah Zombie, I'm getting quite a bit out of it. I am squealching my zeal for adverbs, applying beats and resisting the urge to explain. We'll see how well I succeed going forward. I plan to revisit my short story when I finish both books. Dont' worry, I won't forget the Shrunk and White book!

magnetbabe said...

You are right. You should show the reader rather than telling them. At least that's what I've always heard as well. With that being siad, don't be afraid to break the rules once in a while! Sometimes if you have something to say, say it from the heart without consulting a book.
BTW- I'm a huge football fan. But since I'm a Vikings fan, I'm ignoring the rest of the season and looking towards the next already. Thank God there's basketball too.

Jason said...

The middle is always the killer. the best advice I've gotten is start the story, or in your case, the middle, as close to the ending as possible.

oneseeks said...

Ahhhh, Scott...I so enjoy your writing...And it scares me that a 'writing book' might alter your poignancy, your natural, believable style that has 'smacked me across the face' several times...However, I can see already that you have enough 'artist's angst' to know WHICH advice to take, and which to take with a grain of salt...:D

GO MAN!!!...GO!!!!

Scott said...

OneSeeks - Hey, I really appreciate that. Sometimes I wonder if my writing is really grabbing the reader or not. It's comments like these that feed me and keep me going.

As for the writing book, it helped to clear up some issues concerning dialog attribution; it settled the debate I had been reading online and in other books. It also gave me some syntax pointers, and ways to structure my paragraphs and such. Little pointers all, but all together I think it helps me to appear more professional. But thanks for your assurances, and to be sure, I would never take advice that would take the flavor out of my writing. Rather, I want to trim the fat and add spice.

instadroid said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)