Saturday, January 01, 2011

Words, Words

One thing I promised I would work on this year is the craft of writing. At the library yesterday, I picked up a few books on editing. One of them is The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. I heard Lukeman speak several years ago at a Columbus writers' conference. I credit him with the success I've had sending query letters and receiving requests from agents. So I figured his tips could help me improve my novel as well.
Lukeman's book focuses on how to make the first five pages the best they can be so that agents will want to read more. Of course, if I need to make changes to the first five pages then I probably need to improve the other 295 pages.
That falls on me and seems an impossibly difficult task. Could it really be more difficult than writing the entire novel in the first place?
I decided to do a little work at a time. If I imagined refining every word today, on the first day of the year, I would probably give up.
Lukeman's book starts with explaining how to format a manuscript. I think I have mastered that so I moved on to the next section. That focuses on cutting down or choosing more precise adjectives and adverbs. Sometimes, more accurate nouns and verbs make the adjectives and adverbs unnecessary. The exercise at the end of the first chapter required me to take the first page of my novel and remove all of the adjectives and adverbs.
I had 26 adjectives and adverbs on the 407-word section that I edited. After working on if for awhile, the words seemed to swirl around my brain. I saved both versions and decided to put it away. I think I can make changes that will improve my writing.
My original sentence read: “Uncle Martin. What a surprise. How’s life in France?” I asked in a quiet voice meant to encourage him to lower his volume.
When I revised, I changed it, I removed the adjective "quiet" and tried replacing "asked in a quiet voice" with "murmured." Then I looked at it. I'm not sure that murmur describes the same thing as speaking in a quiet voice. If someone murmurs, is it too much like mumbling? So, even as I make changes, I'm questioning those revisions.
I'll give myself credit for my attempts and put the whole thing to bed -- for now.


U Know Who said...

I guess its a good thing your characters dont talk like me...just blurting out unthought paragraphs on top of everyone and everything, including myself. May the force be with you.

Paulita said...

Characters like that are good too!

Stephanie said...

I'm with you on that one "U Know Who."

It is mind-boggling to a non-writer like myself to even begin to comprehend what goes into writing a novel. I am always in awe.

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