By: Dan Koboldt
One of the most common critiques that I’ve given to and received from other writers could be described in a single word: cut. Cut this backstory, cut that redundant phrase, cut the laundry-list description. For my part, I admit that I’m a discovery writer. Some of the prose that goes down onto the page will serve the sole purpose of helping me better define characters in my own head. Some of it might be world-building that I can do better elsewhere.
One of the most striking characteristics of professional-grade, publication-ready writing is that it’s very tight. Leanmight be an even better word, because it implies that the author has trimmed the fat. Only the meat of the story remains, which usually makes it easier to read because no words are wasted. So where can writers do such trimming? Here are some common areas.
The arch-enemy of the fantasy/sci-fi author. We’re building entirely new worlds, and with that comes the powerful urge to dump a huge amount of information on the reader. This applies to other genres as well: every character and setting in the story will have a history. Some of that history might be crucial to the plot. The challenge is to weave this information into the manuscript so that readers don’t feel like they’re getting a history lesson. Because backstory, no matter how interesting, takes us out of the current action and slows the pace.
2. Red Herrings
You’ve probably heard the adage that every word/sentence/paragraph should contribute to the characterization, setting, or plot . . .
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If you missed my writing & marketing tweets and retweets yesterday, here they are again:
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