Wednesday, July 10, 2013

When a Manuscript is "Done."

I guess I’ll tag this post under writing techniques because it might not be of interest to anyone else. It’s about what happens when a manuscript is “essentially” done.

For example, Wraith of Talera is finished except for one last reread. I’ll do that next week. Gonna let it sit a few days. I just finished some pretty much mechanical stuff on the manuscript this weekend and week. When a book is done I always do a “search” for particular words that I often overuse. In doing so this time I ended up taking out over 900 words that were basically useless out of almost 70,000. The words I search for in particular are, “that,” “my,” “though,” “still,” and “I.”  It’s first person. I also search for “And,” “But,” and “Yet” at the beginning of sentences, which I overdo at times. I also search for “said,” and “asked” and take out excess ones And I search for words that need to be used sparingly, such as “suddenly” and “finally.”

Although I believe this is a good thing for writers to do, there is a risk. Searching through a whole novel this way for a single word can give the impression that the word is far overused when in fact it isn’t if you consider it spread out over the entire book. For example, I use “my” a fair amount in the Talera books, but this is, in part, because they are first person books and I need to cut out some of the “I”s that can really overwhelm the reader otherwise.

Someone told me not to worry about “said” because it becomes invisible to the reader. I’ve always heard that and I think it is generally true for me. However, I’ve noticed it does not become “inaudible” to those who listen to audio books. Since the Taleran books have been produced in Audio, I also wanted to remove excess “saids” for that reason.
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24 comments:

Ty Johnston said...

I've tried the search-and-destroy method, but I don't have the patience for it. Also, I fear in my case it could sometimes harm the flow of the story. Instead, I've tried to train myself to watch for certain things, such as overuse of "said," etc.

I have noticed I have certain phrases that crop up fairly regularly, and I try to limit myself to one of those per novel.

Tom Doolan said...

I'm the same way as Ty. Although so far I have only worked on short fiction. When I start to really dig into doing longer works, I will probably have to re-evaluate my process.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Never thought about what it would sound like in an audiobook.
I have a few words I overuse and try to keep them to a reasonable number in the manuscript.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ty, I've found that the search and destroy method does uncouple the flow of the prose in some cases so I always have to go back and do another final read through, at which point I sometimes add back in stuff I've taken out.

Tom, I can't keep up with very many things at once during an individual go through of the manuscript. I have to go through more than once for different things.

Alex, Said can get pretty obnoxious in an audio book, at least to me.

Aimless Writer said...

What no "just"? lol
Writing it down is the easy part. Cutting it up is painful.
For so many years before I even thought about publishing I'd just write the story and shove it in a file never to be thought of again.
Now I have to edit and find the word sins (just, that). Painful.
I'm no where near thinking about audio. I'm just working on kindle and create space.

Aimless Writer said...

What no "just"? lol
Writing it down is the easy part. Cutting it up is painful.
For so many years before I even thought about publishing I'd just write the story and shove it in a file never to be thought of again.
Now I have to edit and find the word sins (just, that). Painful.
I'm no where near thinking about audio. I'm just working on kindle and create space.

Aimless Writer said...

I have no idea how I did that twice. My only excuse is it's late and I'm tired.
Good nighty

Keith West said...

Your comment about audiobooks reminded me of something I've heard on occasion. To get a feel for how the words flow, read your work out loud. If it's awkward construction, the ear will often catch it before the eye.

Riot Kitty said...

That is a great tip about the word search. In my writing for kids, though, fun repetition is kind of a theme, so if I did a search for the word "doughnut," I'd be screwed.

Cloudia said...

Letting it sit (letting the writer's mind recover, more likely)
and that final re-read (aloud to another if possible)

Yes. This is good stuff that WORKS, in fact is necessary to my process.

I have a very hot romance that is essentially written. But it is "resting" needs to be woven together, and then "read, narrated."

Cross your fingers for me, Charles.

Hope you two are enjoying a blessed Summer :-)



ALOHA from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° >

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, thanks for the writing tips. Most of the words you mentioned are overused in nearly every form of writing including news reports. I don't think their overuse is intentional because we speak them so often that they find their way into our writing as well. I am in favour of doing away with big adverbs and adjectives wherever possible. A lean copy is a mean copy.

Richard Prosch said...

Right on about "said" in audio books. And even with it, unless the reader is very good, I generally lose track of who's speaking at least once or twice.

Charles Gramlich said...

Aimless, no prob. Twice as nice. :) Editing is definitely hard hard work.

Keith, I always advocate reading material out loud. It's one reason I can't typically listen to music as I write because I'm reading it out loud as I go through it.

Riot Kitty, lol. Doughnut was not over used in Black Jack Pepper. :)

Cloudia, cool, sounds interesting! Luck.

Prashant, I don't much like adverbs for sure. I probably do use a lot of adjectives but it depends on the area of writing. I use more adjectives in description for sure, than in action sequences.

Richard Prosch. I do as well, which is why I like to try and be careful. It can still happen, though.

ivan said...

A little too much scrupulocity, I think.
I have handed editors the backs of envelopes for copy, and they made sure the copy came out right.
(Of course, it helps to be on the payroll of the magazine, and your rep not yet tarnished). :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, it feels right to me. It does take a lot of time, though.

pattinase (abbott) said...

YOu are so right about audio books and it actually happened to me while listening to an Elmore Leonard book-and it was he who said it. Another thing he did was use the character's entire name all the time.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

I do the same thing. During one of the final readings, I look for words popping out at me, and bookmark them on my Kindle. Then it is time for search and destroy. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, the whole name thing bothers me too, even in reading sometimes but especially in audio. I knew another writer who did that and I just actually couldn't hardly get through it because it became so irritating by the end.

Bernard, I have transferred earlier books to kindle and gone through them that way. It is handy, although I haven't yet done that for Wraith.

laughingwolf said...

some word processors have an app, i think it's called, to find/flag over used words... makes life a bit easier

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, hum, I should look into that.

Oscar said...

That final read, or next to final, is important for me. It gives the chance for taking out excess and over-used words and making sure the whole thing is cohesive.

Charles Gramlich said...

Oscar, the final read for me is almost totally for flow.

jodi said...

Charles-I think our personal speech patterns just transfer over to our characters. If it becomes their pattern, it could be a cool part of their persona. Descriptively, it could be annoying tho.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, they naturally do. I find I have to work hard to get a character to talk very differently from me.