Monday, August 31, 2015

Words On Fire

by Buffy Greentree

Words have power. They've always had power, right from the very beginning when there was just The Word with God. It was words that brought the universe into being, and it was also just words that allowed evil in. Satan didn't have to overpower humanity, he just uttered a few simple words. 

It is therefore no surprise that James warns, "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." (James 3:1, 6). As writers, this should terrify us. 

In my first year writing, I flooded the world with more words than 90% of people throughout history wrote in their entire lives. I started blogs, did guest posts, submitted articles and self-published three books. All in the hope of getting noticed amongst the tsunami of writing crashing down on the world. 

Of course, I was sure God would reward my efforts, the time I spent creating these words. They were for him, after all. It may come as a surprise to you, but he didn't. It took me a while to realise, but he was not impressed with my lack of respect for the power of words, or my lack of control in using them.  

Then I got a challenge: to take an 80,000 word manuscript and make it 40,000. When asked to do it, I thought it was a joke. But I started. I cut out every spare word, florid description, and tangential plot I could. It's now 60,000, and I've learnt more about writing in deleting those 20,000 words than I ever learnt in writing 200,000.  

So I'm taking up God's challenge to purify through fire all of my writing. Though, since that includes over 460,000 words worth of drafts, don't be surprised if you don't hear from me for a while. And yes, the process is as painful as it sounds. But the results should be pure gold. 

So how are you learning to tame your words? 

(And by the way, this post was originally 1,000 words long.)

Buffy Greentree
Still happy with her two non-fiction books: The Five Day Writer's Retreat and The Nice Guy's Guide to Online Dating Profiles, both available on Amazon. 

9 comments:

  1. Great reflection there! It can be hard to cut our babies, but it can also make the world of difference. When my first novel was originally submitted to my publisher, it was 125,000 words long. She told me I could have no more than 80,000. I got it down to 75,000 and it was so much better because of it.

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    1. That must of been hard! But it's so good when it pays off.

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  2. I feel your pain, Buffy, in throwing out all those words you have written, but I love your determination to 'purify through fire' all your writing and to produce that gold in the end.

    Re taming my own words, I used to be horrified when asked to throw out lots of words and re-write things. But now I know I will produce something much better as a result if I do--it is just part of the process. Also, each week with my own blog, I limit myself to 550-560 words, which is a great discipline for me, as well as providing me with plenty of self-editing practice!

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    1. That's a great idea with the blog. It really must make you to focus on getting the most impact with your words.

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    2. I've done the same with my writing tips blog Jo. Must not go over 500 words. If I can't keep it to that, then it's two posts :) It is a good discipline.

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  3. Thanks Buffy. I am far too verbose in my writing and need to learn to cut it down. Thankfully I love the editing process. Chopping off our babies is very painful at times - but it's gratifying to see what emerges from it. Well done on all you have done to refine your manuscripts! As you say - it is a purifying process and one that's needed. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Great post Buffy. My novel is just over 100 000 words at the moment and I think I have 30 000 to go. Eek! You mean I might have to cut some of them? But you're right. Almost every time I've had to cut something down, it's ended up being better. I always save earlier drafts in case I ever want to use the longer versions later. If there's something particularly close to your heart that you've had to cut (like a scene from a novel), you can always turn it into something else later, like a poem of short story.. For example, I once knew I had to cut my favourite line from a poem because it just didn't fit well with the rest. But I took that line and built another poem around it. Now both have been published :) Good luck cutting down those words and thanks for the reminder :)

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  5. Thanks for your wise words and tips Buffy. It's difficult to axe any of our masterpieces, but if readers are only going to skim then it's not worth it. And I stand guilty of over creating. Thanks for the reminder.

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  6. It's a bit like losing added kilos, isn't it. Not nice while it's happening, but then you see the benefit. After writing radio scripts and having to be spare, I love writing as much as i want. Then reality hits and of course the paring down begins. Yes, Buffy, it all works for the good of the story.

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