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Being concise with writing and editing

pyan

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Too verbose. You could cut 25% by saying "Look -- a dagger!"
And another 33%: "Look! Dagger!"...:whistle:

I'd bet that the current 'sparse' style of writing wouldn't have gone down well in the Golden Age of the pulp magazines, though - not much incentive to pare away words if you lost 3¢ for every one you cut...
 
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Kerrybuchanan

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I'm following this thread with interest, because I'm currently editing my MS. I have got the word count down from 145k to 98k so far, and I'm slightly worried that I'm being a little too gung-ho with the pruning, but I think I've only taken out unecessary repetition and dead plot lines, so I hope it's not ruined the thing. Once I've finished, either I'll have a novella, or a really tight fantasy story.
 

Brian G Turner

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Once I've finished, either I'll have a novella, or a really tight fantasy story.
Amazon and Orbit both appear to define as novel as 50,000+ words. So I shouldn't worry about it - every story only needs as many words as will tell it. :)

I believe ... in letting the muse run riot, for the creativity she brings, and then editing for the conciseness it brings to make it readable.
Ah, a very good point. Tidying up while writing a first draft is a dangerously bad habit - and one better ignored. :)
 

TheDustyZebra

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I shouldn't worry about it - every story only needs as many words as will tell it. :)
This is where I will always disagree with you. If every story were cut down to only the number of words that it took to tell it, there wouldn't BE any novels. And they would all read as if they came from the same author. Which they would, that being Necessity.

All the glory of variety, the style and the voice and the sheer raw difference, those are found in the words that aren't strictly necessary. Therein lies what we're needed for. All those people, gathered around campfires throughout the ages, in rapt attention to the traveling storyteller -- they didn't come to hear the story. They knew the story. They came to hear the telling. They came to hear how much the story had grown in the telling.

I don't read a book to see how well the author pared down his word count to the bare essentials. I read a book to see what the author can do with words, and if, as I hope, it's something glorious, I don't want fewer words; I want more.
 

Vaz

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Surely it come down to two things: style, and the type of story you're telling. Some stories or even POV characters will suit a more concise style, whilst others are going to be better served with a more ornate, stylized prose.

I'm definitely someone who writes in a more "stylized" way, I would lose a lot of my voice or style if I pared everything down to the barest of bones.

V
 

Ajid

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It's interesting that your example involves speech. My worry has always been that cutting to much of a characters words, rather than my own, may change the voice of a character. In this example I imagine that the lines would be said by two very different characters. Having said that It is my first experience of this character. I think a good analogy would be that I imagine Picard saying the first iteration and Kirk the final iteration. However it is down to the narration as to how we view that character.

I guess my question would be can you lose something of the character and infact increase the burdon on the story teller which ever style that is if cutting dialogue?

It's particularly interesting to me because I hate cutting dialogue unless it's to totally re work it. I don't really know what the best solution is.

Edit: The more I think about it I feel like maybe Kirk would deliver the longer speech with a dramatic pause and picard the more to the point order.
 

tinkerdan

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I would say that if this were narrative then cutting it down would make little difference. Cut to your heart's content.
But dialogue becomes a bit of a puzzle that needs to be navigated differently.

You need to look at context somewhat and then mostly at how your character might say this and who they say it to and from there determine just how the brevity might be interpreted. And most of all if it fits the character.

Having done that and decided it shall be brief then you may have to consider in this instance would it suit to be:

"Alert me if it changes course."
or
"Alert me when it changes course."
 

Ajid

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Indeed, I'm with you here, context is everything. I do feel I need to be more flexible when it comes to cutting speech though.
 

pambaddeley

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Am I being dumb or missing a joke here? I don't get the dagger stuff.

It was Macbeth who said;

'Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand?
Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.'

I was trying to be funny. :unsure:

pH
Don't worry PH, I got it ;)
 

Ursa major

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I would say that if this were narrative then cutting it down would make little difference. Cut to your heart's content.
Not if the narrative is in very close third person (sometimes described as first person narrative using third person verbs and pronouns), however, where the narrative is designed to match the PoV character.

So, for example, the narrative associated with one of my PoV characters has the same "bad habit" of using "got" as the character does in his dialogue. Removing those example of got, and doing the equivalent with the other PoV characters' narrative voices, would remove that first person-like aspect of these narratives (these not-quite narrations), making a single, less characterful, one.

And all to save a few words.
 

ralphkern

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Brevity is about being exact as well as being concise. In your example, something is lost in the reduction which may or may not be important.

"I want to be alerted the moment it changes from its current course."

In this one, I get the sense that the speaker is anticipating the change in course. S/he knows, fears or expects it will happen at some point. Although you can reduce it to

"Alert me the moment it changes from its course."

In your reduced example:

"Alert me if it changes course."

In this one it's just a maybe. The character isn't anticipating in any way - just 'if it happens, let me know'.

To me, that is two different things in terms of what the character perceives and expects. Also, that can tell you a bit about the character. The first example shows an element of foreplanning... the second, wishful thinking that the course change happpens (or not).

A second factor is that some people are just plain wafflers. It drives me nuts in my real-life job when I listen on the to someone telling War and Peace over the radio when I need to transmit something. Again, that can say a lot about the characters. A curt clipped manner comes across as more professional, but also colder. (One of the captains in U is like that, whereas another is a bit more long winded, and yet another who isn't a professsional just speaks plain English).

Jargon can also reduce things a lot. But then you are in danger of losing a reader's comprehension unless you show or tell what it means, which can then rebuild the word count. (although Star Trek has the term technobabble where the characters come out with some gibberish, and the watcher simply trusts that will solve whatever issues is bugging them - but, IMHO, you have to build some trust from the reader)

Summing up my points (concisely - ;) ) -

Cutting is great, just be careful you don't lose a primary message - what the character is trying to say, do or anticipate. (which changed between your examples)

Don't lose the secondary function, which is the character building side.
 

tinkerdan

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If your are going this route then you should be doing first person.
Not if the narrative is in very close third person (sometimes described as first person narrative using third person verbs and pronouns), however, where the narrative is designed to match the PoV character.
Third and third close do not require that the POV character be the narrator.
The point of close third is that the narrator is sitting constantly on the shoulder of the POV and experience all the senses and even thoughts of the character and definitely sees things from that POV; however it does not require that the narrator speak in the character's voice.

And if you were to go that route then you might strongly consider using first person, because there would be no difference when you slip that far into voice.

That's my opinion and we'll have to wait and see if anyone shares it.
 

Ursa major

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That's my opinion and we'll have to wait and see if anyone shares it.
You can wait if you want...


...but I suspect the rest of us will just get on with our writing (give or take glancing to see if you are, unwisely, holding your breath...).
 

HareBrain

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Third and third close do not require that the POV character be the narrator.
Requires it, perhaps not. Is made more immersive by it, often yes. In any case Ursa specified "very close third" (which might not be defined in a dictionary, but which is often used on Chrons), in which character voice is pretty much a given.

And if you were to go that route then you might strongly consider using first person, because there would be no difference when you slip that far into voice.
Voice should be only one consideration when deciding whether to use close third or first. They are very different beasts.
 
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