Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Making Every Word a-Count-able by Nancy Gideon

As an author (and even as a speaker or reader) I LOVE words. The more the merrier! Why grunt a syllable when a mellifluous abundance of adjectives and prepositional phrases can say it so much more eloquently?

At least, that's what I believed while writing my first dozen historical romances. And then, a rude awakening. I was assigned an editor who . . . edited. She didn't share the same appreciation for my every adverb. When I received my revisions, I had to search frantically to find the remaining text! My wonderful, ample paragraphs had undergone a starvation word loss diet. Where was the lyrical poetry of my phrases? How could my nouns and verbs survive without the companionship of all their passive friends? My musically masterful alliteration? Pick one? Seriously?! How is the reader going to know it's important unless I stress how very, very vitally important it is? My manuscripts would come back, every page riddled with red and blue ink, a regular St. Valentine's Day verbiage Massacre!

Jump ahead to present day: I survived. I learned. I had several awesome senior editors who taught me how to self-edit: That middle area between revisions (polishing prose) and line edits (technical accuracy) that improves the quality of the writing to the point my manuscripts would come back almost virginal (except for commas and semi-colons, those little suck ups!). I learned to distance myself from my "ly"s, my dialogue tags, to go all Atkins on my descriptions and to take no prisoners when it came to superfluous phrases . . . but leave my allotment of occasional alliteration alone! Yes, I know it's alliteration. I meant to do that!

The bitter lessons learned makes going through the revision draft of PRINCE OF FOOLS, the third book in my "House of Terriot" shapeshifter series, a poignant exercise instead of a pathological slasher rampage. Though I relish every one of those initial 103,900 words, I accept the fact that my book can live a long, happy life after deleting 7,900 of them (or at least, sending them to live elsewhere as Extra Content!). I know that exchange of witty banter between my H/H is amusing and clever but does it serve a purpose in furthering the plot, or reveal needed information about the characters? No? Out! Brutal but necessary to obtain that lean, mean word count.

So, now that I'm an "accomplished" revisionary, what's the first thing I tell anyone about to self-publish their book? Get a freaking professional editor! I may attempt it at home, but I don't pretend that I am fluent enough in Grammarian to get past all those eagle eye readers. What I can do is prepare the best, cleanest copy possible for that steely penned professional. And to let them know up front, if it's alliteration . . . I meant to do that!

Now, back to page 239. Only 4,000 more of the little buggers to go!

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Nancy Gideon on the Web


Diane Burton said...

Love this post, Nancy. I had to laugh at your experience with that editor, although it must have been devastating to see all that red & blue markings on your ms. I've seen a lot of that, too, except mine is electronic (using Word review).

Like you, I tell anyone who plans to self-publish the same thing--get a professional editor. Absolutely. I majored in English and still need an editor, who always makes my work better.

Francesca Quarto said...

Uh, Oh! Now I know I'm in trouble! Never too late to assimilate timely information! Oh, did it again!

Francesca Q.

Maris said...

Excellent post. Although there are times when I like alliteration, a little can go a long ways. Your writing has gotten better and better over the years...but I loved it from the beginning.

Maureen said...

I tend to be long winded in my writing and then have to go back and trim the fat. Great post!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Wonderful witty wise words! Why would we waffle? ;-)

Nancy Gideon said...

Thanks, ladies!! I even kept some of those galleys just so I could remember the feeling.

Paula Martin said...

Excellent!A lot of authors whose novels I have read recently need to read this!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Indeed getting the right editor is essential.