A weekend’s worth of writing-related chores:
* Saturday, I put down nearly 700 quick-and-dirty words — just enough to launch me into a scene that is going to be difficult to write. Then I took the rest of the day off and spent it with my sweetie. Time well-spent.
* Sunday, I did a breezy copy-edit of the manuscript’s 50,000 words so far. “Breezy” might seem an odd word, given the bulk, but what I’m trying to differentiate it from is a probing, hard edit. That will come later. I don’t like to do major overhauls while I’m working on the first draft, unless I’ve boxed myself into a corner I just can’t escape otherwise.
The edit amounted to equal parts shaving words here and there and amplifying a few scenes that struck me as a little naked. In sum, I gained about 300 words on the manuscript — not a lot. I’m fortunate in that my natural writing style is pretty lean. I know some authors whose first drafts are massive mind dumps, which they then pick through to find the story. It doesn’t work that way for me. I mention this only to point up that there’s no right way of doing things. The right way, I suppose, is whatever gets you through.
* One of the canards about writing is that adverbs should be avoided. The thinking is that a well-chosen, expressive verb or adjective can much more efficiently do the work of a verb-adverb or adverb-adjective combination. This is fine advice, as far as it goes. Unfortunately, in the hands of doctrinaire editors and writers, it comes out as “don’t use adverbs.” This is silly, of course. Adverbs are part of the language and exist for a reason. It rather reminds me of the “don’t use passive voice” nonsense. An over-reliance on anything can be wearisome, but passive voice and adverbs have a role in writing.
All of that said, I did find myself trimming a goodly number of adverbs during Sunday’s edit. Here’s one such instance that I jotted down.
Here’s the original passage:
“Dad, I have to go pee.”
He looked impatiently at his watch.
On the edit, I trimmed the “impatiently.” The father’s reply — “Hurry” — conveyed the time-is-running-short nuance. “Impatiently” was unnecessarily expository. Its removal made a better sentence and a better passage.
It’s a small thing, but it’s through such details that good writing is achieved.