Friday, October 28, 2011

I'm So Fat Even My Writing Needs a Diet !!


I recently received notes and a request from an agent as a result of a contest. YAY, right? Absolutely. And while the agent said lots of nice things about my voice, my characters and the story; she also said something that sent this bona fide adjective junkie in search of the nearest thesaurus like a cop looking for the closest Krispy Kreme! My descriptions were “evocative, perfect” and there were WAY TOO MANY OF THEM! Eeeek! Telling me my writing is too descriptive is like telling me chocolate is too sweet. Oh the humanity!

She said my baby is too fat. SOB!

I, of course, immediately sought the opinion of someone I trust implicitly. To my horror this person said “Yep. The kid’s a porker. You need to trim that fat. Can I get you an axe?”

What’s a fat writer to do? That is my question, dear readers. My wonderful story needs a diet and NOW! Anyone have any tips, clues, fen fen for manuscripts?

And do you think descriptions are different for different genres? I write Regency set historicals. I don’t want to write dress-up historicals – thinly veiled contemporaries in Regency drag. But I don’t want my stories to be bogged down beneath avalanches of adjectives. How do you decide how much is too much?

“The road to hell is paved with adjectives.”

Stephen King

Great, now my poor baby has to face two of the greatest fears a Southern woman can endure – Being fat and Going to hell. I can just hear my mama now.

I need an intervention. I need some guidance. I need a really big butcher knife to take to this manuscript! This is all too much for me. Talk amongst yourselves while I go in search of a Krispy Kreme!

22 comments:

Christine said...

Awe. I feel your pain. Only I'm the opposite. A fast, short writer who needs to ADD words. Perhaps we need to collaborate LOL.

You can do this, girl!! I know it!

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL Christine! I can see how some genres are better served by short quick sentences, especially those with action scenes and sassy spunky heroines.

Sometimes this writing is like cooking while blindfolded. You can hit it just write and have a gourmet meal or you can burn it, over season it and or just plain mess it up!

SIGH!

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I really HATE cutting my words!

Catherine Gayle said...

Oh, Louisa. Congrats on the request! Luckily, that is one area that is fairly easy to improve upon. Start by going through and deleting the least effective adjective per sentence. And then, if needed, go through and do it again. Yeah, it means you need to be really objective when going through it, but you can do it.

Carla Swafford said...

I agree with Catherine. That's the best way without killing your voice and story.

Now you've made me hungry for a Krispy Kreme.

Where's my cheese stick?! Grrr!

Kat Jones said...

Like Christine, I have the opposite problem! And, what's worse is I can always find words to cut! :)

I know you can do it though without sacrificing your voice.

Connie Gillam said...

You're funny, Louisa. But I'm no help in the adjective department. I probably don't use enough.
It'll be interesting to see what comments your blog generates. Maybe I'll pick up some pointers.

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh now that's a good start, Catherine. I can do that. I think. CRINGE! The objective part is what will kill me. Adjectives are like really cute shoes to me! Did I mention when I moved in here my brothers unloaded one pickup load of just shoes???

Louisa Cornell said...

I know, Carla! I made myself hungry! Fortunately the nearest Krispy Kreme is in Montgomery and I try never to go there unless I just have to!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Kat ! I know those words are in there! It's just having the courage to cut them. OUCH!

Louisa Cornell said...

Ah, Connie, my FABULOUS Pixie Sister! Thanks for stopping by! I hope we can all pick up some pointers from the people who stop by. I wish I had your problem!

Ella Quinn said...

Louisa,

You'll get it done. I love your writing.

Marion

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Ella! And I love yours too! Here's to getting those books done and in the hands of hungry editors!

Elisa Beatty said...

I'm an over-writer too...and it's soooo hard to have to cut. Maybe the classic diet approach: a certain (small) number of adjectives per page (or per chapter), and anything beyond that must be ruthlessly shown the door.

(Keep a file of "cuts" though, so you don't feel like they've vanished forever!)

Lexi said...

I agree with Elisa. I try to trim as I go and I take things/descriptions that make a scene sluggish and paste them at the end of the document for later use. That way, you're not killing your little darlings, you're relocating them!

Cari Hislop said...

As a fellow Regency writer...I know how you feel...we need to set the scene, but we don't want the reader drowning in sickly sweet syllabub served in cut Bavarian glass that catches the candle light, casting flecks of rainbow onto the hero's snowy white cravat like dribbled multicolored gravy.

It's a fine line. My personal rule is: if the adjective/description moves the story forward and or helps the reader experience the story (or understand the characters) I keep it...if I can take it out and it's not missed then it goes (even if I love it).

I find some stories demand more description than others. They may be a bit thicker around the waist, but I just think that's their ideal weight!

Lisa Dunick said...

If this is the first time that you've had an agent or editor tell you there were too many adjectives, I don't know that I'd worry about it too much. It might just be a personal preference thing, and there might be another agent who thinks that your level of detail is just fine. You might also be targeting the wrong agents. That's what I ran into-- I went after agents who specifically did romance first,got some requests, but none took it. Then I targeted more general/literary/women's fiction agents and my requests doubled and I had 2 offers within a week. If you're targeting an agent that is used to or likes a certain kind of historical romance and yours is more historical than romance, it might be the problem.

Louisa Cornell said...

That sounds like a good plan, Elisa. And I definitely HATE throwing any of my words away. I work so hard to get them on the page I cringe at the idea of cutting them.

Louisa Cornell said...

Adjective relocation! I like it, Lexi! No adjectives were harmed in the editing of this manuscript!

Louisa Cornell said...

Great explanation, Cari! Some stories DO require a bit more description, but I like the idea of checking to see if the story works without some of them.

So my writing isn't fat, it's FLUFFY!

Louisa Cornell said...

Now that is an interesting perspective about agents, Lisa. And I definitely consider how many people have hit on the same issue in my writing before I consider changing it. Always a good rule of thumb!

Rashda Khan said...

Congrats on the request, and sympathies on the ouch :)

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Rashda! Definitely an ouch, but it could have been worse!