Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Does your novel need to go on a diet?

Everyone likes big books, you can't lie... yeah, I went there. Seriously though, an author tends to write on the 'meaty' side of things during the first draft phase. We write with a ton of adverbs, repetitive nouns, prepositions, verbs, its, and and, the list goes on.

All that makes for a chubby novel. One that needs a hand to cut those extras from it's diet and trim down to a sexier sized manuscript. Yes, I know your novel isn't going to sport an itty bitty yellow polka dot bikini at the beach, but, it is going to go to publishers, editors, and readers hands.

Why should your care if your writing is a little on the husky side? Just like bon bons too much of a good thing can be damaging to your figure, or in this case it can muddle the picture you want to create for your reader. Over description can be boring, too many adverbs or pronouns can get confusing and mess with tenses.

Too many of those little connector words such as  and, it, that, this, like, or as (or is one too!) can clutter your sentences. You want your writing be create a clear and concise.

Don't worry you don't have to squeeze your novel into those skinny jeans hanging in your closet. Here are a few tips to help tip the scale in your favor.

Channel Mark Twain, he is one of my favorites and gave great writing advice. He once said, "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should."

It really is a good idea. The first step is to determine which words you tend to over use. Once your bad habit words are determined substitute damn in its place or just dashes. When edit read the segment in question without the habit word and with it.

Doing this will help you decide if  you actually need to use the habit words and where you can drop them from your diet. Just like eating less carbs or Heaven forbid cutting out chocolate in your real diet.

How do you determine what words your novel tends to over eat? There are tools in Word or most word processing programs have the option to search and count a certain word throughout the book. Yeah, that can be a lot of work and you can miss leg day (a habit word) and end up with thunder thighs in chapter six.

The easy way to do the deed is to use an editing aid such as Grammarly, Ginger. These products have free options as well as paid subscriptions to their services and tons of features and tools to make your novel strut the runway with it's fit and trim body. My personal favorite is to take a trip over to The Writer's Diet webpage.

The Writer's Diet is also a fabulous book by Helen Sword that helps you trim your writing without sending it to the Biggest Looser. You can even test your writing fitness level right on the site under the Test tab. Just copy paste no more than one thousand words and click Run the Test.

You will get a rainbow colored page that highlights your habit words and shows if you need to put that book on the treadmill. It will also tell you if you're dieting too much. (Your book, not you. Put down that cookie!) Now, this is just a feedback tool. It won't tell you if your writing is good, bad or needs cheese.... everything is better with a little cheese on top. It will help you determine those high calorie words that possibly need to be nixed.

Play with it and try different samples of your writing, if nothing else it's like that cake over there; pretty to look at just like that big slice of cake with the pretty piped rose on top.... 

*takes a bite of cake and sighs happily.... Oh well, so much for that New Year's resolution. Maybe my novel will look good in those skinny jeans.