Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Writing Down the Bones: What your Publisher doesn't want to see

I found another wonderful handout - this one from 1988 by Susan Wiggs - now a lot of it is a bit outdated now. Some of the rules have changed but a lot if still very true. As an editor I constantly see things like this and have to mark them.

Starting the chapter - Susan said to start each chapter with the word chapter - which is capped followed by the number - Chapter 1 - this is still true although with electronic publishers I have also seen the number spelled out.

Scene breaks and chapter breaks - Susan used the pound sign, which might still be true with traditional publishers but I have found the electronic publisher wants you to use the astrid now. There is no mark at the end of a chapter.

Use a personal pronoun instead of the characters name - this is still true - when I first started writing and belonged to a critique group someone made a comment they didn't know who was speaking so I started using my character's name like every 6 times. Several years later and a different critique group I was told I used them too much. Rule of thumb I use is if I think my readers could get confused about who is talking I put their names. I also use their names if I think the sentence reads better.

Always define the word thing - this is always a smart move. Mary had things to do - what sort of things? Does she need to buy large garbage bags, and rope? Why? Mary had to pick up the rope and garbage bags. A body wasn't going to bury itself. which one would you rather read?

Susan also spoke about redundant phrases like sitting down, retreated back, straightened up. I had that one pointed out to me - no need for the second word in each of those phrases - if you're retreating it's normally back.

She spends a lot of time on modifiers. One big one was try not to use more than one modifier for a word, another is placement. She used thick honey colored waves of hair and reworded it to waves of thick, honey colored hair.

Susan also recommends that you put the important information at the end of the sentence for more impact. You need to simplify trick sentence structure and be economical with your words. I've seen authors use "big" words to convey what the want the reader to know, I've also read my share of convoluted sentences. Mary stuck her tongue out at the man who cut her off as she brushed her hair back from her face. Brushing her hair back, Mary stuck her tongue out at the jerk who cut her off.

Some of this I have spoken about before, but I have learned that sometimes we need a 'refresher' course. It's fun seeing how other authors viewpoints on editing too.



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