Saturday, August 2, 2008

Revising the Novel - Best Word Choice or Big Guts and Belly Fat

Just finished a meeting of Mimi's Boys on Thursday night (don't worry, my bruises will heal) and a very important lesson came up.

Best word choice.

Now, I've already touched on this subject in the Ten-Point Revision Strategy, but it came up again in a way that was slightly different, and my writing was to blame.

In one scene, I have my character, the ER Department Chairman, a rather big man (or Jabba Browne as one of my group members calls him) lean back in his chair and rest his hand on his stomach. In that sentence I said something to the effect of "leans back and rests his hand on his large gut."

Doesn't necessarily seem like the that should be the focal point of a long discussion, but believe me, it was.

As we'd discussed before, each word, every single word, that we commit to paper (printer) has to be exactly what we wish it to be. It must convey exactly what we want it to convey. But more importantly than just conveying information, it has to be entertaining. After all, isn't that the point? To entertain? That's what reading is. Certainly reading a novel, particularly a thriller.

Les, one of Mimi's Boys, stated emphatically that we have to strive to make each sentence as entertaining as possible. That' right, our responsibility isn't just to write an entertaining book, but to make sure that each and every sentence in that book is entertaining in and of itself.

To be honest, I hadn't ever thought of it that way before. But he's right.

We can't rely on 2nd or 3rd tier adjectives or descriptors or cliches to finish our sentences. There are no "throw away" paragraphs, or sentences or words. Each word must count. And we need to make sure that each word conveys the information we need it to in as entertaining a way as possible.

Case in point, my large gut.

Sure it emphasizes Dr. Browne's large mass, but is it said in as entertaining a way as possible?

Les jumped all over that one, giving me his sly, one eyebrow raised look that states so clearly, "you can do better than this." And again, he's right. With effort, we can all remove these rather efficient but bland modifiers and interject some personality, some deeper level of description, some humor and some entertainment.

It's a lot of work. It means going back over the novel, word by word, sentence by sentence, and continually asking yourself, does this say what I need it to say? Is there someway I can write this better? More descriptive, more original, more entertaining?

In the margins, Les crossed out my large gut and interjected, "placed his hand on the roll of fat above his belt." Damn if that isn't better. More descriptive, certainly more original and even slightly humorous.

Do you agree? Do you feel that each and every word/sentence has to be polished as much as possible for maximal entertainment? Send me your thoughts.

Now I'm going back to work. I'll bet there's quite a few large guts in my novel that could stand being replaced by some rolls of belly fat.

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