Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stuffing, Padding, or Enhancing Your Package?

No one in the 6th or 7  grade thinks they are attractive. Those early teen years are awkward at best and frightening if your body is caught between a child's body  and a fully formed package.
As writers, we go through this same awkward, ugly stage.
Some overcome it and flourish into real beauty with stories like..."I dreamed the whole story. Wrote it in six months and have four best selling novels, and million dollar movies to my name."
Most of us, keep working, learning, and finding tricks and tips along the way.
Today's tip takes us back to the first time you felt like a mutant compared to the curvy, sexy, well built members of your class. You decided some toilet paper stuffed in the right places would make the difference.
Except today its your writing. Whew!
Word count is like a bra size. Either you've got too much or not enough.
In either case, words that work as nothing but enhancement take away from the clean lines of your story, pad your word count, and steal valuable space where the story can expand into stronger plot lines, better characters, or deeper emotions.
Words that pad and fluff are easy to find and eliminate once you know what you're looking for.
Here's two examples. One with extra padding and one without.
"Just as Sawyer leaned over the metal railing on the bridge, a very small drop of water splashed the ground below. Instinct jerked her back under the wooden trellis, Even when the dark cloud over head drifted past. Sawyer still huddled beneath the very dry wooden structure."
Not a great example but hears the difference.
"Sawyer leaned over the metal railing of the bridge as a drop of water splashed the ground. Instinct  jerked her head beneath the covered bridges wooden trellis. She remained there, dry, while the dark cloud drifted past."
The first has a word count of 47, the second, 37. A huge difference if you're writing for a short story competition and you only have 1500 words. If your manuscript is 90 k and your beta readers complain that they want to see more interaction between your hero and heroine, or, the dialogue is too wordy, or worse there's not enough of it. Eliminating certain words can open up new worlds for both you and your characters.
The golden question? What are these words?
here's a short list. Find and replace in your tool bar on office word or on whatever word processing program you use.
Just, Even, Very, Still, Only. Directions are often redundant and unnecessary as well. back, up,below, overhead down.
I searched and replaced these words in one of my pieces and out of 48 k words, I eliminated over 400. That's a savings of nearly 10 %.
If I can make my novel 10% better, more developed and more widely read. I'll do it.
The secret to removing your padding words is to find them and then read the sentence without the word. If it still makes sense or just needs a little re-working, toss your toilet paper word.
Your sexy, sultry, curvaceous manuscript will shine instead of having its stuffing sticking out.
In the meantime, keep reading and writing!

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