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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chinese Water Torture, Or What It Feels Like To Cut 10,000 Words

So one of the problems with writing in the YA genre is that you have to keep your books succinct. This is a good and bad thing. On one hand, you won’t find a bunch of purple prose. (“Her flaxen hair flowed like dried wheat in Kansas on a sultry summer day with the sweet smell of honeysuckle dripping luxuriously…" Yadda yadda.) On the other hand, you don’t have an unlimited amount of words to get your plot across. No matter how complex, you gotta keep your books short (or shortish).

Yeah, I can struggle with this.

It’s not that I’m naturally long-winded. At least, I don’t think so. It’s that I tend to over-plot. I’ve always got side-stories running. If you’ve read the Amor series, you’re familiar with Mariana’s best friend, Emily, who has an extensive subplot going on through the books. By the end, she could have her own spinoff series.

And if you’ve read my current WIP, you’d know I’ve got subplots to my subplots to my subplots. Personally, I like to think of my books as “multilayered.” However, those in the publishing business may just think of them as about 10,000 words too long.

So now, once again, I’m facing the daunting task of axing about 7 – 10,000 words from a manuscript. Oh, the horror.

And I know I’m not the only one suffering. When I mentioned my plight on Twitter, one fabulous Tweeter, @KatieAlender, said:

Once, I actually figured out that by cutting 14 words per page, I could lose 5000 words. So I tried it….. It's easy... like emptying a bucket one grain of sand at a time, LOL.

Seriously, all you playing at home, give this a shot. We’re talking Chinese Water Torture. One word snipped: drip. Another word cut: drip, drip. Another: drip, drip, drip.

Now you see why YA doesn’t have purple prose.

So off again I go with my machete ready slice this manuscript. If I make it to my word count, I should earn a medal, or at least a certificate or a ribbon like you got in 4H. There has to be a website out there that does this.


Did you hear they cast Jennifer Lawrence to play Katniss in the Hunger Games trilogy? Personally, I have mixed feeling on this. When I saw her at the Oscars in the hot red dress, I was like, “Wow, who’s this chick?” One dress may have seriously changed that girls’ life, because I couldn’t have been the only one who wasn’t aware of her existence until then. (And you know, she was nominated for Best Actress.) On the down side, she’s 20, and while by real-life standards, she’s just a baby, in YA standards, she’s over the hill. By the time she films the third movie in the trilogy, she could be married with children. And she’s also a little too sexy for Katniss, in my opinion. But maybe I just can’t get that dress out of my head. It was really awesome.

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's National Grammar Day, And Me Speak Pretty

Happy National Grammar Day! What? You didn’t know? It’s not on your calendar? Hallmark doesn’t have an aisle of cards? Well, grammar’s not all that exciting, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

So in honor of this little known holiday (is it really a holiday? or just a day of recognition? a made up spoof?), I’ve decided to put together a list of my most common grammar mistakes as well as a list of the grammar rules I love to break.

My Biggest Grammar Mistakes:

1. Lay/Lie, or Drunk/Drank, or Hung/Hanged—
I swear there are words in the English language that are not meant to make sense when conjugated, so I will just admit defeat when it comes “people lie” and “things lay.”

2. Missing Words—
I don’t know if this is a true grammar issue, but when copyediting, my most common typo is simply forgetting to include those little words like “to” and “in” and “on.” No matter how many times I reread the sentence, my brain inserts the word I forgot to type.

3. Using “were” after “if”—If a person were to read my unedited manuscripts, they would find I often want to put “was” after if.

4. Adding all the necessary apostrophes to show possession—I most often have this problem when used in the plural, such as, “I went through my parents’ things.” That little apostrophe at the end of “parents” always eludes me.

And now for the fun part…

My Favorite Grammar Rules to Break

1. Fragments—
I love fragments! I love one-word sentences. Awesome. Without intentionally trying, fragments became a part of my writing style, my “voice” so to speak. I think they can speed up the flow of a scene.

2. Starting Sentences with But or And—
I do this all the time. But I know it’s wrong. And it’s probably someone else’s pet peeve. But I just love breaking this rule, every time I do I feel like there’s an elementary school teacher shaking her ruler at me.

3. Parentheses—
I know these are supposed to be used sparingly. They’re known to break up the flow of thought, and many people feel they can skip over what’s contained within them because it’s obviously not important otherwise it wouldn’t be in parentheses. But I use them to hold internal monologue, especially when I’m writing in the first person. (Like, really, anyone would ever say these things directly to the reader.) It’s just a fun quirk I developed over the years that I’m probably gonna stick with.

So enjoy your Grammar Day, and when you pound out your next email without thinking, imagine there’s a grammarista on the other side—she may be judging you today.

Poor Anne Hathaway. She tried her best. And I think with a better cohost—my vote is for Justin Timberlake—she would have done an amazing job. She can sing, she can crack a joke, she’s perky, and she can obviously quick change into a dress like nobody’s business. But alas, she got James Franco, and no matter how much I love General Hospital, I can’t say anything positive about this soap star/Oscar-nominated/college student. He was a dud. His pasted-on smile was creepy, his shoulders were stiff, and he wasn’t even funny when he walked out in a dress. Why did the Oscar people pick him? He may be “young and hip,” but he’s also rather odd. If I know that, how come they didn’t know that?

Copyright © 2008 Diana Rodriguez Wallach, All Rights Reserved