Saturday, May 9, 2009

Trimming Dead Weight

Years ago when I first began to pursue writing as a possible career, I read an article about honing the craft of writing while improving one's technique. The author, an editor, spoke quite disdainfully of the habits which "bog down" a manuscript. Today, I have read a second article which reiterated her advise.

The 2009 edition of the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market contained an article entitled "Trimming the Deadweight in Your Manuscript." Now, as the writer--I.J. Schecter--began by creating his own word in combining "dead" and "weight," I was already prepared to ignore everything he or she had to say. Unfortunately, the same four reminders from nearly three decades earlier jumped forth to slap me in the face:

1. Minimizing the usage of adverbs and adjectives (ouch!)
2. Eradicating entire "unnecessary" sentences (oooh!)
3. Identifying and avoiding repetitive stylistic tendencies (arrrgh!)
4. Maintaining consistency in the tempo, pace, or rhythm of your voice
5. Captivating your audience and keeping its attention by keeping your work lean and consistent, i.e. free of any "superfluous descriptions" and/or "accidental wake-ups."

None of these concepts are new. I have read similar articles, even written them myself for my occasional writer's workshops. This does not mean that I necessarily like them. As a lover of "classic" literature, I miss the languid descriptions which drew me inexorably into the mood or the setting of a story. Even as I have given this advice, I have wondered how much of this need to eliminate and eradicate comes from our ever-growing reliance--even dependence--on the more rapid pace of television, video games, and internet. Am I the only one who finds it difficult to follow those modern "action" or "drama" offerings which swoop and zoom from person-to-person, idea-to-idea so quickly that I find myself never actually identifying, sympathizing, or getting to in any way know the characters or settings? Do I alone find those books, television shows, movies, and magazine articles which take the time to draw me in, to capture my imagination, to urge me to think (even pick up a dictionary) more engaging?

I don't know.

Trimming things down to the bare minimum.

Today, I am struggling with that concept.

No comments:

Post a Comment