Friday, April 17, 2009
Less Is More
"As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence." - Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin, inventor of bifocals, the lightning rod and water skis, had a talent for saying something profound with very few words. And when you write a mystery novel, the language needs to be spare so the plot can move quickly, so most writers I know spend long hours trying to say more with less.
I've been thinking a lot about idle words lately, words which seem essential the first time you write a chapter, but then in the cold light of morning, when you're editing what you wrote the night before, look like barnacles on a ship. Even the most economical writers will say they can always go back through a manuscript and cut, cut, cut. Where do these extra words come from?
It's almost as if our subconscious has followed the national trend towards obesity, and it requires a conscious effort to trim the fat from our first draft. That's assuming our stories and imaginings stem from our subconscious in the first place. Maybe our superego has been supersized by living in a fast food culture. Or perhaps our id and not the subconscious needs whipping into shape. If Freud were still alive (and hadn't been so verbose), I'd ask him.
The next time your editor suggests you trim the length of your manuscript, just explain that you have a fat id and ask for more time. It will probably trigger more confusion than sympathy, but it may buy enough time to make those cuts you probably should have made in the first place.
Posted by Tim Maleeny at 1:24 AM