Monday, December 20, 2010

Writing Is Rewriting

During the Patriots/Green Bay game last night, I got back into my novel revision which during this pass is strictly cuts and fixing word usage when/where it jumps out.   With regret, I've cut several whole scenes and am contemplating cutting a semi-major character and all those references.  Ugh!  This is the part of writing that isn't much fun.  On the plus side, I must have sliced and diced several thousand words.  If I expunge the character or at least his many phone calls, I can purge a few thousand more, making the novel . . . the right length?

Do you like slim books like Dame Agatha Christie's that can be started at 9:00 p.m. and finished at 11:00?   Or do you like the big meaty novels of P.D. James or Elizabeth George?   Every reader has her faves.  I know local publishers who will not look at a book with more than 75,000 words (slim, slim, slim) which eliminates character depth, subplots, local color and really hones in one one story line.   That's not how I write, and those slim books are straight whodunnits, usually small town cozies.    Do you know what a so-called "cozy" mystery is? It's a story where "more tea is spilled than blood?"  Isn't that a great description?  Miss Marple comes to mind.  Usually a cozy has an amateur sleuth set in a small town and the murder occurs off scene, in other words, no graphic violence.  No sex and usually no bad language. Your 12 year old could read it.

The word "lite" comes to mind, but these are a beloved part of the genre, also known as "traditional" mysteries, but those can have sex and violence and a professional sleuth, think Spenser, Robert Parker's slim volumes without any "kerfluffel,"   Of course, Robert Parker wrote 3-4 books a year, so naturally they wouldn't be 125,000 word tomes.   The Boston mystery community misses him a lot.  No one can take Parker's place.

Back to rewriting.  Parker claimed he never did, that his first draft was also his last, and he wrote fast, so this is a great mystery to me how anyone would NEVER have a clunky sentence or forget the color of the car a character drove, or eye color, or all the details that make a book believable.  I genuflect before such genius.

I make my corrections in red ink.  It will be a job and a half to fix the manuscript.  Word for MAC has been throwing hissy fits lately.    Spell check aborts, losing my changes, the tool bar has to be tweaked every time a document is opened, and now the printer thinks I'm printing "small" pages and is doing something goofy to the page.  If you go to the help screens, you want to run off screaming, because the "fixes" are hideously technical and come with lots of warnings and even an old geek like me wouldn't  touch some of them with a ten foot pole. I don't know if re-installing Word for MAC would help.  Maybe for a while, but it began to crap out after just a few months.

My desktop looking neat for a change
Well, bleak thoughts that do not help the situation.   When software doesn't work as intended,  it makes life very difficult, like when the new financial software changed all my accounts to Euros during a upgrade and I couldn't change them back.  Alas, Microsoft Money, you were such  a gem, why did they get rid of you?

Enough gnashing of teeth.  It's the solstice, almost and the days will become longer and winter is truly here.  Not my favorite season, and once the holidays are over, endlessly bleak.   St. Agnes Eve and all that.  "The owl for all his feathers was acold."  How I love that poem.  Reading Proust again, too.  The favorite authors keep calling.

Back to editing and chopping out words and paragraphs.  I notice that sometimes the exact same thought is stated twice, and I can just strike out the poorest statement.   Chop those words.  Out!  Out!  Damn word.


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