M is for macrology

Sin #12: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!

Ma•crol•o•gy n. Long and tedious talk without much substance; superfluity of words.

As writers we have lots to say. Fair enough, but don’t try and put it all in one story! I understand that each and every project is another chance to prove yourself, to show the world how great you are and how wonderful your writing is…but there is such a thing as overkill.

Excessive wordiness can kill a novel dead.

As annoying as it was to hear, teachers had the right idea…

Oh my god, did I just say that!

…with the phrase quality not quantity.

When it comes to writing fiction, all types of fiction, writing tight is crucial. This is one of the first, and most painful, lessons a writer will learn when submitting their work for publication.

When you think you’ve finished cut 10% of your ‘final’ draft, then go back and cut another 10%…right, now you’re ready…to start cutting properly.

Yes, I know it’s painful; forcing yourself to rip your baby to shreds in order to make it a stronger piece. You don’t care about making it better, it’s your work and it can be as long as it bloody well needs to be! Sure you’ll cut out the odd word here and there, but when you do you’ll probably feel the need to add a few more.

That’s the problem; somewhere along the line all writers (probably picked up from school) feel that quantity is the be all and end all of completing a story.

JEFF: “Look ma, I wrote 100,000 words – my novel is finished!”

JEFF’S MA: That’s my boy!

No Jeff, your novel is ready to lose 20,000 words. Sorry Mrs. Jeff’s Ma but your son will be locked away in his room for another month or so slicing words from his manuscript and from his soul.

Yep, that’s how it feels. We take it personally rather than objectively and feel as if when we cut the words we’re cutting away a part of ourselves.

*SLAP* Well get over it sunshine, because that’s how it works in this business!

JEFF: Ow! My pretty face!

By cutting away the fat from your novel you leave the tasty meat of clarity and the succulent juices of relevance…can you tell I’m writing this post right before dinner?

You leave behind the essence of your words and convey the message you want to get across to your reader. No longer do they have to wade through the sticky ice cream mess of superfluous text *stomach grumble* to get the relevant points. You speak to the reader directly and hold them close as they hang on each and every word.

How many times have you scanned over redundant sentences in a novel to get back to the interesting parts? I know I’ve done it quite a lot. But I also know that there have been books where I’ve clung to every word, every syllable and letter as I get dragged along WITHIN the story rather than plodding along by the side of it.

So pull out those ‘finished’ pieces that don’t seem to be working and grab a scalpel, a pair of scissors, or just file down your nails to points and tear, rip, shred those redundant and surplus words, paragraphs, chapters from your novel!

Good luck and God speed!


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    • Cheryl on April 15, 2011 at 12:09
    • Reply

    Ah yes – all very well; but what to cut?

    • Steven Chapman on April 15, 2011 at 12:11
    • Reply

    Just a little of the top, shaved back and sides please…Other than that, the first thing I do is to go through my draft and strip out the instances where I've repeated information. You'd be amazed how much it happens!

    • Sue H on April 15, 2011 at 14:10
    • Reply

    When I first started Lily Childs' weekly prediction challenge I found it hard to keep to the limited word count (100) – but it's surprising how that forces you to re-think and re-phrase what you want/need to say. Amazing what you can acheive with a litle judicious pruning!

    • CharmedLassie on April 15, 2011 at 14:52
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    The Sweeney Todd approach to fiction! This is probably why I'll never submit my manuscript – it could always be better arranged and cut and… just better. Gargh, I'm doomed.

    • ttofee on April 15, 2011 at 18:54
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    The more words I have to play with,the harder I find it to cut out words – I find flash fiction much easier because I dont have any wiggle room with the words!

    • Sheila Siler on April 15, 2011 at 21:20
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    A new word for me, forgive me if I don't "like" it. But then again we often don't like the things that are good for us (eat those veggies!). Thanks for the direct word.

    • Jeanne on April 16, 2011 at 19:43
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    I love your "puppet suicide" diagram. It cracks me up. I tend to be too wordy at times and need to cut, but I am always surprised when a critiquer tells me I need to cut more! Good article.

    • CekaTB on April 17, 2011 at 06:37
    • Reply

    Time this Blog came out as a little book, sunshine, it's hysterical. LOVE the illustrations too. Good for a giggle.
    Oh damn it's Sunday coming up, nobody will post a letter on a Sunday …

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