If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Here are the upcoming WWK interviews for the month of July!

July 4th Christopher Huang, A Gentleman's Murder

July 11th V. M. Burns, The Plot Is Murder

July 18th Edith Maxwell (Maddie Day), Death Over Easy

July 25th Shari Randall, Against The Claw

Our July Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 7/7--Mary Feliz, 7/14--Annie Hogsett, 7/21--Margaret S. Hamilton, 7/28--Kait Carson.

Our special bloggers for the fifth Monday and Tuesday of July--Kaye George and Paula Gail Benson.

Please welcome two new members to WWK--Annette Dashofy, who will blog on alternative Sundays with Jim Jackson, and Nancy Eady, who will blog on every fourth Monday. Thanks for blogging with us Annette and Nancy!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Annette Dashofy's Uneasy Prey was released in March. It is the sixth Zoe Chambers Mystery. The seventh, Cry Wolf, will be released on September 18th. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Annette on September 19th.

Carla Damron's quirky short story, "Subplot", was published in the Spring edition of The Offbeat Literary Journal. You can find it here: http://offbeat.msu.edu/volume-18-spring-2018/

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), was published on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here. He's working on Seamus McCree #6 (False Bottom)

Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in July 31, 2018.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tight Writing

He hesitated a moment before shrugging his shoulders, finally nodding his head and, in quite an inelegant gesture, suddenly threw up all over the shoes that she wore that day, almost entirely covering them with the contents of his poor stomach.

If I were to read such a sentence in a book—and it was not intended to be an illustration of inelegant writing—it would be the last sentence I read in that book. I would rant to Jan about poor editing and read something else. I don’t expect to find so many egregious errors in one sentence in anything I choose to read. A gradual accumulation of such errors scattered throughout a book has the same ultimate effect on my reading pleasure: it convinces me that the author is not a fine writer. At some point, unless the story was really good, I’d give up and choose something else to read. Even if I got through that book, I’d never read another from that author.

As the title to this piece suggests, my prejudice is for tight writing over loose, sloppy stuff. I fill my first drafts with the type of errors I’ve illustrated. I catch them as I self-edit, but invariably introduce a new problem or two. My penultimate step before sending a manuscript to readers (or to agents and publishers) is to eliminate my excesses.

I have a list of individual words I overuse, redundant or inactive phrases I unthinkingly write and other faux pas I regularly commit. I use Microsoft Word’s search function to find them; then I try to fix each one.

Try 2:

He hesitated a moment, before shrugging his shoulders,shrugged finally nodding his head and, in quite an inelegant gesture, suddenly threw up all over the shoes that she wore that day, almost entirely covering them with the contents of his poor stomachspewed vomit on her feet.

This edited version is tight. It might even be too tight and need fleshing out with powerful action or description. For example, in reviewing the edit, I probably include a description of the “inelegant gesture” to show what it was, rather than telling of its existence. However, with the initial edit I eliminated many of my pet peeves.

All hesitations are for a moment. It is impossible to shrug anything other than one’s shoulders (although one can shrug into clothes). Two delaying tactics may be one too many, but a third is tiresome (and one can only nod a head). ‘Finally’ occurs in the middle of the sentence. It is not his final act; puking his guts out is.

‘Quite’ is superfluous, and if you require the emphasis, use a more descriptive modifier. ‘Suddenly,’ rarely is. ‘Threw up’ is ugly, but not very active; ‘spew’ paints a more vivid picture. The ’all over’ doesn’t add anything (we didn’t think he vomited a single dainty drop on one toe, did we?) particularly when we are told the vomit didn’t completely cover her shoes.

Kill weak modifiers such as ‘almost’ and ‘entirely;’ give specificity. The phrase ‘that she wore that day’ has too many ‘that ‘modifiers. We can assume she wore the shoes and the action did not occur over a multi-day period. Eliminate contradictions and irrelevancies. We want to know why he vomited and what her reaction was. Stomachs are not wealthy or impoverished; save ‘poor’ to describe those without money.

I commit other atrocities in early drafts, but I’ll save you and not describe all my crap writing (N.B. not all OF my crap writing). After I beat my blunders into submission, the final step I take is to reread the manuscript and discover errors I introduced in fixing the last batch of problems.

When you read, what sets your teeth on edge? When you write, what sloppy habits must you fix in your editing?

~ Jim


E. B. Davis said...

Short story writing taught me about tight writing. It's a primary lesson every writer needs to learn. But in dialogue, I think writing too tight can seem unnatural since most people don't edit themselves, and there are those readers who like description that waxes on poetic--not me--but some--which is one of my problems in reading "literary" novels. Usually, they are "littered" with too many adjectives and adverbs.

I write a chapter probably seven times before I'm satisfied that I've written it tightly and have used the most effective verbs. But then upon revision, I change it again and again and again....and then I submit it to my critique group and they stab at it. Most of the time, I agree with their edits, so I change how I've written it once again.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

My son had an English teacher in high school who was fond of saying something to the effect that "You never complete a piece of writing, you finally choose to abandon it."

I agree I can always reread something and find an improvement, but if you are going to write more than one story, you do have to spend time in draft one!

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

I have my own bad habits such as "seemed" and "appears" that are a hang over from writing medical progress notes. I also tend to change characters' names in mid story.

KB Inglee said...

There are so many lovely words out there to use in place of long prharses of ordinary words.