Wednesday, 9 January 2008


Is a lot A LOT of often unnecessary words!

I spent yesterday editing a section of the novel-in-progress down to make it eligible for a short fiction call.

It started at 7,750 wds or thereabouts. I had already 'tightened' to c 5,750.

The call is for work no longer than 3,000 wds.

Wow. Not possible. 7570 to under 3000?

It certainly is. The story that came through in Bridport last year was a heavily edited part of the same novel, losing at least half that section's bulk.

More is not necessarily better.

Less is often more.

The trouble is, every novel I pick up now does the same to my head..."You could have said this in a quarter of the words... or less. Why have I paid to read the extra?"


Nik's Blog said...

Maybe you got the extra bits for free. :)

Hope the editing's proving fruitful.


Vanessa G said...

Ah now theres a thought!

The necessary words could be printed in one colour, and the other nice bits in another.

and at the back there could be the bits that never fitted in the first place, in a thirdcolour.

All adding up to 120,000 wds!!

I think we've just invented a new genre. Spectrum Lit.

Vanessa G said...

Seriously though

Editing a novel section down into a short is a fascinating process.

It makes you concentrate on those places where you wandered off and expounded, described at length, brought in extra characters, rambled about their characters a bit, wandered down corridors just because they were there... then wandered back to the main stream of the work in your own good time...

and makes you take those out.

It exposes the core story of that section, and brings it back to 'every word counts'.

It does, sadly, teach you to spot padding, bigtime.

Nik's Blog said...

It is an interesting idea and something I've only tried to do once. (I only tried once because I couldn't do it!)

Re - (irrelevant extras) I remember an interview I read/heard with Neil Gaiman when his second shorts collection was launched. He wanted it to contain poems while his publishers just wanted shorts. He told them they could have the poems for free and if people didn't want to read them they didn't have to and wouldn't feel bad because they'd not paid for them.

Of course he put it much better than me, but this reminded me of it.


Nik's Blog said...

PS I think padding (though I'm sure it's a lot more relevant and necessary than just padding) has its place where it's needed. The trick, I'm guessing, is identifying what's going to benefit the story. It needs what it needs, though those needs will change depending on its form. And of course a short story's needs are very different to a novel's.

It's all good fun, though isn't it, all this hard work!

Vanessa G said...

You are right, Nik.

I am taking out those things that don't work for this single short story... but in the novel the extra characters, descriptions, side alleys... they are 100% needed.

I'm over simplifying.

But would you say that all the novels you read are as closely crafted as they might be?

Nik's Blog said...

No, I wouldn't. But recently I've started to wonder whether, at times, it's me. I mean, I'm sure I'm looking at it with my writer's hat on, thinking: I wouldn't have done it like that, rather than giving the author, whose story it is, the due credit or trust.

Of course that's not every novel. Some just aren't crafted as well as they could have been. I think.

Ramble, ramble!