Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A verbal diet

For years and years and years, everything I wrote came out short. Novels became novellas, novellas became short stories, short stories became single paragraphs.

Sometime last year, though, a switch flipped, and now I write long, while still writing lean. My goal for a cozy mystery is around 80,000 words. Anything up to about 100,000 words is an acceptable length. My last manuscript (A Stinkin' Plot) was 105,000 words before the revisions I'm doing right now, and the "short story" I wrote in December turned into a novella, which may actually become a full-length novel during the second draft.

I used to be a little skeptical (and a lot jealous) of authors who bemoaned writing too many words then struggling to cut them. I always wrote lean, and even then there was usually something I was willing to cut on every page.

Now, though, I'm having to eat my words (or at least my thoughts), as I struggle to find phrases and sentence and paragraphs that aren't absolutely critical to the story.

I wonder what it would be like if I could literally eat the words. With my luck, they'd probably be high calorie, especially the multi-syllabic ones. Maybe strong, active verbs would be the celery of word diets, and adverbs would be the full-fat dairy products. I'd gain weight while the manuscript shrank.

Maybe eating words isn't such a good idea. I guess I'll keep slogging through the pages with one finger on the delete key.

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