Loosening the Screws on Too-Tight Writing

Loosening the Screws on Too-Tight Writing

Blogprofilepicture_zps1dda66aaWhilst editing more of the never-ending manuscript last night, I became aware that some of my writing was tight. As tight as a publisher’s wallet in fact.

I can clearly discern which sections I wrote during free-wheeling, word-flowing time off when I spent a couple of hours jotting down stream-of-consciousness, vaguely-related meanderings, which eventually morphed into a further couple of hours of deftly-written, not-to-be-deleted, killer copy ending with sore fingers and a stone cold cup of coffee beside me.

Equally, and far more distressingly, clear are the passages penned in a snatched Tuesday-evening hour between putting the bins out and de-fleaing the cats. (Never let anyone tell you the life of an aspiring writer is anything less than a free-for-all of bohemian glamour!)

What to do is the question? How to untighten the screws and loosen up those stilted, laborious paragraphs? Whole chapters in some cases.

I have tried the Oscar Wilde approach of poring over them for hours, changing the occasional word for a more flowery word, only to replace the original word an hour later. All it did was give me a headache.

I have tried the approach of chopping these bits out like a gangrenous appendix for the overall health of their host. Do appendixes/appendices get gangrene? Don’t know, but it’s a good image huh? Yep, thought so.

No. That won’t do at all. I fear there is only one viable solution my dear friends. I am becoming convinced that I need to find some of that valuable free-wheeling time mentioned in the first paragraph (do keep up at the back…) and… *small gasp*… re-write these passages entirely.

Those of you who have pored over manuscripts several dozen times will appreciate the dread with which I am filled at this notion. I have to re-read the whole thing. Then I have to re-read the offending sections. Then I have to free my mind like a lone seagull whirling in the wisp-blue skies of a seaside town and re-write those passages with the same freedom of flow and yet keep their original significance.

Or I could just burn it.

So dear readers, what do you do at times like this? What’s your trick for loosening up the bits of your writing that are wound like a clock-spring?

2 Responses

  1. FIrst, scream! Let the frustrations out and you’ll feel better. Then, close the computer and let those offending paragraphs rest. Go back to them another day and cut and paste your favorite lines, the ones that make you dance and put them in a new document. Save that doc and then cut the original to shreds. You’ll still have the gems to paste back where needed, or re-work them into something new. At least, that works for me. Not sure how Hemingway did it.

  2. At times like that, I take it as a sign that the manuscript needs to either go in a different direction or something else needs to happen or change. Take it as a sign that something is wrong or missing in your narration or story, etc. Once you’ve figured that out, the words begin to flow again.

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