Monday, November 26, 2007

The Queen of Wordyville

Since we’re talking about our writing bugaboos this week, I guess it’s time to fess up to mine. If you can’t already tell from some of my earlier posts, I’m wordy. Not the ‘use big, multi-syllable words in every sentence so the average reader has to stop and look them up in the dictionary’ type of wordy. I just tend to use a lot of little words when I write. Too many, I’m afraid.

In my defense, I do try to keep my scenes short and to the point. Honest. I don’t spend paragraph after paragraph on description and narrative. Really, I don’t. I strive to keep my dialogue clean and crisp. I also don’t ramble on page after page with backstory, I avoid passive voice as much as possible, and there’s hardly an adverb to be found (well, except for that ‘hardly’ that somehow snuck in there *G*). But in the end, my stories always turn into these mammoth tomes. I can’t help it. I don’t think I could write a short contemporary if my life depended on it.

Looking back, my first book was 458 pages in Courier 12. Ouch! Then *presto, chango* converting it to Times New Roman (TNR) brought it down to a svelte 350 pages, all without trimming a single one of the 102,378 words. Not bad for a long historical. But I wrote that before I knew ANYTHING about writing (or POV or pacing or sagging middles or overused plot devices). Just glancing through my first pitiful attempt at romance writing this morning, I saw places so thin of description and action you’d fall through it if it was made of ice. Needless to say, it’s going right back under the bed where it belongs to keep all those multiplying dust bunnies company. My second book came in at 393 pages in TNR 12. That’s 119,963 words. Still not too bad by industry standards--I made it just under the 120,000 mark by the skin of my teeth. But as you can guess, between book #1 and book #2, I found my voice, learned the craft, and in the process, started adding more words. A lot more words.

Therein lies my problem. My latest masterpiece-in-progress is hovering at 397 pages. That’s 124,320 words folks. And the dang thing isn’t finished yet! I still have 6 chapters that need to be completed and/or polished. At the rate I’m going, this puppy is going to come in around a whopping 500 pages without some serious slicing and dicing. But where? I’ve gone through it several times and every scene so far serves a purpose--be it to show character growth, story progression, or sexual tension. If my muse was being particularly nice to me that day, some show all three. Woo hoo! But once I finish this thing (hopefully sometime this decade) and send it off to my wonderful (and very patient) agent, I’m going to live in constant fear of hearing an editor say, “I love it . . . but can you cut 40,000 words?” *argh!!!!* You’ll hear me wailing in despair from at least three states away.

You see, I’ve discovered something about myself as I’ve slaved over these three manuscripts in twice as many years. While I believe I write tight, I write long. I send my poor characters on arduous journeys where they have many challenges to face, resulting in them learning things about each other and themselves along the way. Each has a great story to tell and I’m loathe to cheat them of their time on the page to live it out. Call me an old school type of writer, but I love to take my time building the relationship between the hero and heroine which, unfortunately, takes a lot of words to do. And once those words are on the page, I’m not the impartial, ruthless editor I should be when it comes to deciding if they should stay or go. I’ll admit it. I’m a wimp. I can’t, as William Faulkner said, “kill my darlings.” I just can’t do it. Not that I think I’m this brilliant writer and every word I type is pure gold. I do cut. Some. But obviously not enough. I really should go out and get “The Dictionary of Concise Writing.” Maybe it will help--if I hit myself in the head with it several times. Or maybe I should pray for the editing fairy to sneak in one night and take magic scissors to my mound o’ words. That may be my only hope because if I try to do it myself, my manuscript is likely to end up looking like some unintelligible ransom note created by my 6 year old.

Wow, I do believe that’s the shortest blog I’ve written all year. And it’s still long! *sigh* Just carve ‘Queen of Wordyville’ on my tombstone--if there’s room for it.


  1. Oh, yeah....I forgot that bugaboo. Can't-shut-up-itis! It scares me that I have nearly every bugaboo that's been mentioned to some extent.


  2. LOLOLOL! Lori I feel your pain. My tome started out at 500 pages in TNR.

    Hero and heroine meeting on page 95!

    And so we go back to pacing and trimming and trying to combine scenes so that they serve more than one purpose.

    There are books that I love so much that I wish they were longer, but the ugly truth about the business is that 1.) paper and ink are expensive 2.) readers have more entertainments to choose from 3.) readers have less time due to RL constraints
    4.) unless your name is Stephen King, Nora Roberts or JK Rowling, the biz wants *shorter* books for all of the above reasons.


    I do understand.

    Hail to the Queen.



  3. Count me amongst the disturbed-because-I-have-every-bugaboo people. Though I gotta say, I am getting better about the wordiness. Sometimes. Kinda. It does get easier to kill your darlings, though, I promise...especially when you've got an agent/editor telling you that you need to! The good thing is, at least in my case, I usually end up going "AHA, I see what she means!" rather than rocking in a corner crying:-) Great post, your highness.