Monday, March 9, 2009

Killing Me Softly

Killing my darlings

That’s what someone said editing out all the unnecessary words was akin to. That’s what I'm doing today, killing my darlings. It's supposed to make your work better, trimming 10% of the fat. Leaner, faster, more aerodynamic prose.

I hate it. It makes me feel like someone just crapped in my Cocoa-Puffs.
BUT, one of the writing groups I belong to has a contest and their short stories are required to be 2500 words or less. So, here I am, wasting valuable time watching clips from SNL on Hulu (I adore Hulu. It's the ultimate in couch potato sites. "What, were you too lazy to DVR the last episode of Burn Notice? Dude, it's on HULU!!!") or, you might have noticed, writing a blog, when I'm supposed to be doing a slash and burn on my apparently-not-short-enough short story.

So, for your reading pleasure, here is how I'm taking a story that starts at 3848 words and whittle it down to 2500 without totally making it sound like something my kid sent to me in a text message:

First, of course, all the adverbs must go. Then I cut all non-essential information. Then I do what in the film business they call "Cheating".

A couple of = several
Hear that= understand
Are required to be= must be
I took= taking

See? It's tedious. And then my characters all have to speak in contractions- no full sentences. That way we kill off all of the Wills and Nots and Haves reducing the "I have" to "I've". One word. And I need to cut out 1348 of them and still have it make sense. Still have it make you feel.

Grrr, it's like thinning out your grocery cart so you can squeeze into the 10 items or less line when you have a Nazi for a cashier.

Now, this is what cheezes me the most: It's called a writers "voice". Those of you who do not know me for reals, I write exactly the way I talk. And I have a very distinctive, very recognizable speaking voice.

Keeping your voice
is very important.
Otherwise you're just
another pretty face


So, having to chop out my personal spin on the language I use is torturous. And, of course, having to limit the amount I talk to boot.

Oh look, it's 5:00 pm.

I love daylight savings time. Happy Hour comes that much sooner. Maybe I can high-lite/cut better under the influence of wine.

And don't let your darlings play in my yard, because I can't guarantee their safety.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ddusty anonymous says: (for the third time)

I've sympathized. Maybe you could cut out a character? Oh, right, that would make for a strange romance. Why do I hear David Bowie singing in my head?

busktism: the irrational belief that the world can't get to hell in a hand buskt.

Belle's personal assistant said...

Limit the Slave driver's words!?! Say it ain't so!!!
That Pom is hilarious.

Seroiusly, I do know about cutting words. In my case, my students last exam was 14 pages. I promised that this exam would be no longer than 4-6. Aren't I nice?
Heck no! It meant that I had to grade 1400 pages! Lets cut that down a little, shall we? I am shooting for 4 pages. There is no race this weekend to distract me while grading, so it needs to be as short as possible:)

eudefo -- She was so eudefo, that I named her Belle, from Beauty and the Beast!

Slave Driver said...

That Pom is a compilation of a Pom fridge magnet I got at Wal-Mart and a reminder magnet I got from my dentist... I trimmed out the lips and photo shopped out the red colored pencil they had in there. It sits on my fridge, and people are always doing a double take.

I like it. It makes me laugh.

Dusty, sorry about the multi-commentings that keep getting swallowed by Blogger... BPA's blog always eats my comments so I've started to copy/clipboard before I hit submit, just in case my witty banter is lost for time and all eternity. ;)

Jenn said...

You have to learn not to fall in love with your words. I have to cut every day to fit a very specific space. You just do it, you rearrange and rework and rewrite and do be afraid to be brutal. If you write in an active voice (which you always should do!) you automatically eliminate a lot of extra words.

Dusty said...

Jenn--who makes you stay within a word count?
And SD's voice is very active.
I'd love to know more about the Pom, too.

Slave Driver said...

The Pom is a magnet with another magnet on top of it, and although my Pom looks exactly like that one, she doesnt wear as much lipstick.

StSabl: the patron saint of fur coats.