Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Frugal Writing

"Axe unnecessary words and tighten your work."
Huh? What does that mean? Well, according to Stephen King, he uses this formula:
A good second draft = the first draft, less ten percent.
Growing up, my mother's best friend was the epitome of frugality. She could split a dollar ten different ways and still have change left over.
Here's an example, and I kid you not:
Auntie would buy two-ply toilet paper and rip the sheets off at four square intervals. Usually while watching evening TV, she would separate the two-ply into piles. Then fold the now one-ply, and stack them in an empty tissue box with the top cut off. She'd put this box of precut TP near the toilet (no spinning rolls in that house!) to make the experience more convenient for the…partaker.
How can we apply this to editing and have the completed results not change the flow, the plot, the very writing itself? Thus, the Stephen King formula.
If you're like me, you tighten the sentences and realize you're losing a huge amount of work. The word count drops, and nobody wants loss. But the revision is good! Bright, tight, and condensed. Your crit partners are doing some type of Tahitian bootie shake in your rewrite honor!
What have I done when this happens? I add a few new scenes if my edited version comes out too short.
My parent's trashcan never filled to the rim. They recycled before recycling was ever thought chic. And I bet they can still out-trash anybody out there.
  • Planning the garden on a hand-drawn chart, we grew our own vegetables like a writer creates a storyline. The seeds took consideration. The rows planned out. Space and water, as with characters and tension, were important factors as the plants matured, growing ready for harvest
  • My parents' cupboard had limited amounts of pre-packaged food; just like a writer should come to the keyboard with fresh ideas. Nothing someone else already created.
  • Left over banana peels, bones, potato skin, etc., either fed our chickens, horses, cows, cats, and dogs, or contributed to the compost pile. Nothing, and I repeat, nothing was ever wasted. As writers we create whole chapters which are sometimes cut in the editing process. I save all those pages to possibly use later. Maybe to apply after "tightening" and I need to increase the word count again.
  • Tin cans, plastic packaging, cardboard--all the 'good waste' went into the recycling bag. Used envelopes, junk mail, and old calendar pages became scratch paper.
Many things in daily life can be repurposed. I'm not talking about crap lying around your house, I mean life in general. Don't waste your down time while pushing a cart around the grocery store. Drink in the sights, smells, sounds, and variety of people.
Look in their carts! (You'll never see them again, what do you care?) Note what they wear. Some of my best tension ideas come from watching people in the check-out line or filling up at the gas station.
Being frugal doesn't mean you have to be cheap. Quality will out shine nominal every time and last throughout the ages. A superior life will be remembered as fulfilling. Excellence in writing is timeless.
Let me know how you apply frugality to your writing. What's your tightening process, and do how you feel about the end result?


Tabitha Blake said...

Great blog.

Penelope said...

quality over quantity works for almost everything. :)

Martha Ramirez said...

What an awesome post, Sheri! Keep 'em coming.