Friday, May 29, 2015
Writing: Short or Long?
What does this have to do with writing? More than you might think. Writers generally have a target number for the word count of their finished manuscript. How do they hit it? What happens if they're too long or too short? I don't know what others do, but I've finally come up with a solution that works for me.
If you think the book you read was written in one fell swoop, without editing, revisions, and rewrites--then dream on. It didn't take long before I realized it truly does "take a village" of editors to produce a well-written book. Thus, I know going in that I'll be doing several rewrites of mine. My tendency is to write just a bit short. I keep one eye on the word count and the other on the outline in my head. No, I'm not an outliner, but even a "pantser" like me knows what has gone before and how he/she wants the book to wind up. So, keeping both those things in mind, I tend to come out a few thousand words short of my target goal.
Then, with the second rewrite, I make certain I've described the surroundings, engaged the senses, more fully explained some of the things that were clear in my mind but not necessarily in the reader's (and this is where my first reader comes in...she keeps me honest). I may also remove some things that are unnecessary, but this is more than balanced by what I put in. At the end of that rewrite, I'm generally in the correct ballpark.
Other writers do it the other way around--they write long, putting in everything that's needed plus a bit more, then tighten their writing in the revision process. It works for them. I don't know how you'll do it, but you'll eventually find your own sweet spot in the process.
It still takes...I won't say "talent" or "skill"--rather, I think it takes "experience." In other words, to learn to write you must practice writing. Practice won't necessarily get you to Carnegie Hall (old joke), but it often gets you noticed by agents and editors.
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