Monday, April 10, 2006

What I Learned on My Winter Vacation: So what have I been up to while I've been away?

Mostly learning how to edit.

And I'll bet my readers will be so grateful.

Here are some actual recreations of the kinds of stuff I did. They aren't verbatim; as Dan Rather would say, they are accurate forgeries.

"What was I--" He stopped mid-sentence. (Duh.)

He stood up and walked across the room, crossing to the other side, where everything in the room looked slightly different. (This is for the sake of people who don't know what happens when you cross a room.)

"You are the dumbest person I have ever known." There was contempt in her eyes. (You think?)

You get the point. Lots of noted writers suggest you trim around 10% from any manuscript.

Actually, I think I like the way Algis Budrys says to do it: Trim as if you had to pay the publisher by the word. I'm trying it and it's working. Those who had to wade through "Beautiful Hands" as a 10,000 word beast of a novellette will be shocked to hear it's now a 7,500 word short story. And it works really well at that length. Gone are all the instances where "Tevya thought about how much she hated her father, loathed him, wish he would choke on herbs and die." And so on add infinitum. Instead Tevya gets on with the story.

The side benefit of playing such hack-and-slay with old manuscripts is that it's helped me feel freer in my current drafts. No need to fret over each sentence like I was carving scripture on gold plates. Just get it down on paper. They'll be plenty of time to fix it when you're done, and you can see each bit in terms of the whole story.

So look for a new piece soon. And look for me to put something here more often.

Because nobody does 24 commentary better.

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