A Carpet of Words

I’m ankle deep in words. They’re scattered over the old Heriz rug covering my office floor, piling up against the trash can as I prepare a manuscript for professional edit at month’s end. I feel as if I’m sawing off my arm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI remember my first journalism class in 1975. (Yes, I really remember that far back.) My Journalism 101 professor marched to the podium. (It was a weed-out class, so about 100 students). Promptly spilled coffee on his khakis. (It was the preppy 70s, for goodness sake). And barked, “Every word has to earn its right to be on the page!” That piece of advice was worth the price of admission, and is the most important thing I recall from my undergraduate study. (He then kicked out a guy reading the school newspaper, a frat boy dumb enough to act cocky on the front row.)

It’s not so much extraneous words creating issues. It’s embellished concepts—things that enhance the story’s appeal to me, but probably bog down a reader. More proactively, I’m targeting anything that doesn’t move my story along. Propel it. As I write about places I’ve been, I actually see the streets, smell the scents, hear the sounds. I know way too much, and love my story and characters as if they were part of my real world. But I must find the precise amount of dialogue and prose needed to create an image for my reader. To do that, I must delete anything that would distract him or her.

It’s a difficult process, but absolutely necessary for a professional manuscript.

I couldn’t accomplish this edit a year ago. I lacked healthy distance. But in twelve months, I’ve developed a storyline for another manuscript. Read new releases from a few of my favorite authors. Reviewed input from sample chapters. I’ve discovered fatty little pockets, and charming, circuitous rabbit trails that are best eliminated, or saved for later work.

Writing is messy business, and I need to vacuum now.[subscribe2]


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