Fine, thank you for asking. Well, my story’s going as fine as it can be , considering I just had two weeks off from my day job to work on it. I got it through
the Excel draft phase, into the Word draft phase. It came out monstrously long and disjointed, so I spent most of the last three months working on pacing, flow, character development, plotting. I’m not talking about wordsmithing. I just wanted to be sure transitions were in place, that characters and time didn’t jump around–stuff like that. In the process, I cut out 60,000 unnecessary words. Who’d know I was so wordy? (haha)
Now, I’ve started on the wordsmithing. I do that by checking the big problems first, then I read through the mss five or ten times to see if it flows. Here’s what I call ‘big’ problems:
- the use of had. I use far too many of them when I write. Who knows why, but they are sprinkled generously throughout my novel. Had takes the passion out of the story. Think about it: Everything’s in the past, so the trauma is vastly mitigated. There’s no mystery that my character survived–he’s telling about the past. It’s like a constant flashback and becomes annoying even to me.
- the use of was. This is another energy-sucker. It makes all action passive, slow, deliberative. My story drags when I have more than about two per page. That’s my goal. It’s amazingly easy to de-was a story. I find it fun.
- the use of words like were, is, very, that, fairly, bit, mostly, appeared to, seemed to (in short, all mitigators), began, started, then, would,
- the use of adverbs. I find them by searching for -ly using Word’s Find function. I check each one, decide which should stay, which need revision
- the use of adjectives. The rule is two per noun. Sometimes for stylistic reasons, I break that rule.
- the use of the negative. As a general rule, writing should use few not, n’t,–negatives. It makes the reader depressed rather than uplifted. I do a Word search for not and n’t to find them, then pass judgment on each, based on value. (Of course I know you must have them in a story. Just don’t over do it.)
- the use of -ing. Not She was singing. Instead, write She sang. I do a Word search for -ing and pass judgment on each occurrence
- the use of autonomous body parts, i.e., her eyes fell to the book. Eyes don’t fall, her gaze falls.
Once I’ve combed these out, I’ll read the mss, over and over.
The problem is, I have a deadline. I want to enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) so I have to be finished by Jan. 24th. I also am attending the Southern California Writers Conference in February. I had hoped to have several agents read my baby there. Rule of thumb is, don’t submit work to agents that isn’t completed. Since I know they’re going to love this action-thriller, I want it ready for them.
How do you get your writing finished up? Maybe I can add something to my list.