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Margot Finke

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Member Since: Nov, 2006

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Waffles are for Breakfast, Not for Writing
By Margot Finke   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Posted: Tuesday, November 07, 2006

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I critique many manuscripts, and what often jumps out at me is the wordiness of the pages. Excessive wordiness is a rejection waiting to happen! Combine this with the Big Yawn of wimpy verbs and tired adjectives, and you have the makings of a "double whammy!"



I critique many manuscripts, and what often jumps out at me is the wordiness of the pages. Excessive wordiness is a rejection waiting to happen! Combine this with the Big Yawn of wimpy verbs and tired adjectives, and you have the makings of a "double whammy!"

Words are a writer's stock in trade. Sure, there are computers, printers, pencils and paper. There are also terrific ideas. However, when your butt hits the chair, the things I mentioned above count for nothing if the right words don't come to you. When they come, the words need to be powerful, humorous, fun, evocative, and active. They must intrigue, lure, beguile and appeal. Your words need to grip the reader's imagination and emotions, sweeping them into the tale you are telling.

Writers who allow waffles to sneak into their completed manuscripts, with or without maple syrup, are begging for a rejection letter. Over indulgence in any form is bad for you.

Take Eating for Example: too much of a good thing will make you fat. Your thighs become heavy, your butt wobbles, and your underwear pinches in places we won't mention.

The Same Happens With Writing: excessive words make your chapters too fat. Your paragraphs wobble and become top heavy, and your plot suffers the bloat of wordy descriptions in places it was never meant to go.
Removing the Waffle from Your Literary Diet:
Don't worry about your first draft. Waffles are products of swift thoughts and wild imaginings. A few waffles might even escape future rewrites and tweaks. That final polish is when you need to cut the fat.

The First Step:
Bottom drawer your manuscript for at least two months: forget about it. Write something new. Doing this will open your eyes to things you missed during previous overhauls, tweaks and rewrites. You will be amazed at what jumps out at you, begging to be pruned, shortened, or scrubbed altogether. The Bottom Drawer method can be an awesome writing tool. Kill the following on sight, plus similar word-pests: very, nice, get, like, some, seemed. They simply add to your word count. Use Find to zap them. If you need a more powerful replacement, use Shift F7 to bring up Word's Thesaurus. Don't repeat yourself. Say it once, say it well, and then move on.

Where you used fifty words to tell your reader something, see if you can make the same point using thirty words. Dig up several active verbs, plus a quirky or memorable adjective or two. Then, turn the sentence inside-out and upside-down. Give it a thirty word makeover that has punch, sass, or zing! Try this throughout your manuscript. Guaranteed to deconstruct the most stubborn waffle.

The Second Step:
Beware of sidetracks. These are areas where your waffles develop a separate track, and remove the focus from your main characters or your plot. Every word you write needs to move your plot forward, or develop and set up your characters. Look at those places where you waxed eloquent. Are they vital to your story line? Have you woven in a subtle clue or background element. . . or, is that bloated paragraph really an unnecessary sidetrack with no payoff for your story line. Cut the excess fat. Put your pages on a no waffle diet. Often, less is more.

Turn the Big Yawn into the WOW Factor:
The time to actually unleash the Hounds of Find and Replace is when you do that final polish. Remember, writers who generate dull and unimaginative adjectives and verbs, will receive a big yawn instead of a WOW! When you give your manuscript that final read through, check every verb and adjective in your handy-dandy Word Thesaurus - ShiftF7 (or Thesaurus of your choice). Replace those tired and the overused verbs and adjectives (see examples below) with evocative and action packed alternatives:

Wimpy Verbs (yawn) . . . . . . . . . . . . Verbs with Muscle, Power and Action

Ran . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Raced, Galloped, Scooted, Scampered, Dashed
Walked . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Strode, Skipped, Wandered, Strolled
Talk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Chatted, Nattered, Whispered, Gossiped
Hit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Thumped, Clobbered, Trounced, Bashed
Moved . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Shuffled, Slid, Barreled, Zoomed


Dull Adjectives (Yawn) . . . . . . . . . . Adjectives that Paint a Word Picture.

Nice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Delightful, Enjoyable, First-rate, Terrific
Good . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Excellent, Great, Super, Fine
Pretty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Beautiful, Cute, Eye-catching, Alluring
Happy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Pleased, In High Spirits, Delighted, Thrilled
Big . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Huge, Gigantic, Humongous, Wide-ranging

As you can see, using Find & Replace, in conjunction with a good Thesaurus, will help you craft chapters that are gripping and inspired. And yes, by all means go for hot waffles at breakfast: just don't serve them up in your chapters.


HAPPY WRITING MATES!


NOTE: My monthly "Musings" column is usually hosted by The Purple Crayon.

Web Site: "Musings" for November 2006



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