Monday, January 26, 2009

Words That Count and Stephen King

My word count is now down to 97,000 words with around 7,000 to go, literally. It's a tiresome slog, whittling away - first chunks, even whole pages, and now sentences and words. I can't say it's been difficult to do. It just takes immense patience, looking at the work as an unknown editor would.

When we read our own work, we often skim over things, perhaps a bit of dialogue that's not saying much, or paragraphs that are oh-so-familiar that we hardly see them. Our eye jumps to the next important bit. Well, it's those skimmed-over pieces that need to come out.

We even skim-read our favorite writers, and it's a pity it's necessary. It's fine for text books, articles, blogs, when we're just looking for the facts, but it shouldn't be true of fiction. I do it with many novels, and I don't resent it, hold no grudge against the writer, because if the good stuff is really good I'm forgiving of the superfluous words. A great book holds our attention the whole time. We feast on almost every word. Heck, we even go back and read the introduction and acknowledgements. THAT'S a good book.

So that's what word reduction is about. Despite some regret at the exclusion of what I considered remarkable passages that took hours to write, much of it will be used in other books. I have cut the equivalent of around 100 pages - almost a novella in itself. It's satisfying to know that I have all this other material tucked away, ready for the next manuscript.

I've just finished re-reading Stephen King's, On Writing. This is a must-have for writers, written in such an entertaining way that you're sad when it's finished.

I'm not a King fan, because I don't particularly care for blood-curdling, graphic violence. I read all of The Shining, despite how I felt about some scenes, because this man is a great writer (and a humorist). I recall reading the first chapter or so, thinking how perfect the setup was for a thriller, how beautifully he set the scene for us. But then everything went King-Crazy, weird and way too over the top for me, so that I read the rest with my head half-turned away, scared about what would come next. Okay, so I'm a wimp. But I love his writing, not necessarily his subject matter.

On Writing is a really good read, whether you are a writer or not. Stephen King comes across as a genuinely nice guy, full of wit, wisdom, and a down-to-earth approachability. He has a sort of 'Oh, shucks,' humility about him. This book reveals so much of his guy-next-door voice, it's hard to imagine how he can be as wealthy as he obviously is. Perhaps he's given most of it away. I urge you to read it, whether for the first time or again.

I closed this book, once more, with a smile on my face. How could Stephen King possibly achieve that with me, wimp that I am?

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Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky