Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crisp, Clean, Concise.... The Good Cook's Guide to the Chopping Block of Chronic Wordiness and Winter's End Book Giveaway!

Oh my stars, Tina noted the irony of this post title right off because if there’s one thing I’m NOT (okay, there are a lot of things I’m not, but we don’t need to go THERE, do we???) it’s crisp, clean or concise.


But I am a good cook, therefore well-intentioned and the chopping block of verbosity IS my new stomping ground because my beautiful, wonderful, marvelous Steeple Hill Love Inspired books are 55-60,000 words in length.

Now you’d think that was easy, I know, and for most intents and purposes you’d be spot on, especially when I have total and utmost appreciation for songwriters who tell a COMPLETE STORY in sixteen lines.

Now that’s talent.

I whine about having to cut from 70K to 60K and why, you ask? Because I talk too much, plain and simple. I like to blame that on my parents, they’re both in heaven so there’s no imminent smack-down, and I can shrug the onus onto them, but the plain fact is, brevity rules for general purposes.

Bill O’Reilly calls it pithiness. I like O’Reilly most times, and he’s concise, so I took myself to Cheryl Wyatt’s great blog here to help teach myself how to be pithy, concise, succinct, short and snappy.
When necessary, of course. Because while a fun, sensual repartee can be quick, razor-sharp and to the point, love scenes should invite the reader to linger…

But each and every one of you got to LINGER way too long yesterday, oh my stars, I ran the a/c all night and I live in upstate New York. And it’s February.

Good grief.

But Cheryl made some great points in her blog that day in ‘08 and I realized it’s not so much cutting the book as it is the art of rephrasing.

Big difference.

So, let’s play: Here’s a scene from a new book, first draft. I wrote it this morning, banging it out, and here it is, unfiltered:

Trent thought he had this all under control, old memories, old feelings stowed in a virtual military-style foot locker. He’d been gone a dozen years, a long time by anyone’s standards, and yet...

The minute his car began the climb toward The Edge, his heart began a new rhythm, something sharp and staccato, not a bit comfortable.

He shoved the feeling aside as old news. He’d been a kid. He made mistakes. Who didn’t?

And yet being with Lyssa had never felt like a mistake, despite their youth, their emotions, their eighteen-year-old passions that swept them into uncharted territory. He was the guilty one, he knew that now. Had known it for some time. As the man, he was the God-sworn protector, the leader.

He’d failed miserably.

But it was a long time ago. They’d both moved on. He’d only wished he had the chance to apologize, to make things right, or at least as right as they ever could be, but once she’d dumped him and headed west, she hadn’t looked back.

After all that happened, he couldn’t say he blamed her.

He parked the car alongside Helen’s sedan. Everyone else had given her a wide berth, as if respecting her position by parking elsewhere.

Trent had no such issues. Helen Walker was a smart, savvy woman who knew her business, the kind of CEO he enjoyed working with. She waited for him to catch up, then angled a look to the setting, the cozy restaurant nestled in its hillside setting. “Bring back memories?”

Trent paused, startled. How could Helen...?

“You used to work here, right?” She sent him a look, half-frown, half-smile. “In the kitchen with Gary and Susan.”

“Oh. Yes. Yes, I did.” Duh, Trent. Get a handle on this, okay? Of course she knew that, everyone knew that. What they didn’t know was his relationship with Lyssa. Gary Langley wouldn’t have thought too highly of his beautiful, smart daughter taking up with the kid who got dumped along the side of the road, no matter how good he was on the football field.

“Jonas and I came here often. He loved the prime rib. Always said Gary had a hand with it like no other.”

Trent nodded agreement, but it wasn’t as if he had anything to go on. A kid washing dishes and peeling potatoes didn’t get to sample things like prime rib.

Okay, let’s play:

Trent thought he had this all under control, old memories, his old feelings stowed in a virtual military-style foot locker. He’d been gone a dozen years, a long time by anyone’s standards, and yet...

I dumped the qualifier ‘all’… I overuse them, but I don’t worry about it until I edit. I also over-state things by doubling feelings for emphasis. A little of that goes a LONG way in fiction, so I cut most of them back out to sharpen the flow. The reader already knows Trent was a former Army captain, a West Point grad and a decorated war veteran so describing the imaginary foot locker as ‘military-style’ is redundant.

The minute his car began the climb As his car snaked its way up the familiar mountain road, The Edge, his heart began stuttered a new rhythm, something sharp and staccato, not a bit comfortable. Uncomfortable. Maybe even painful.

He shoved the feeling aside as old news. He’d been a kid. He made mistakes. Who didn’t?

The snaking car lets the reader visualize a curving road without me saying he was driving up a curving road, or following the curves in the road. The word ‘snaking’ conveys the sense of winding, curving terrain. I dumped the restaurant name here because I’ll probably overuse it on my first draft, the restaurant name befitting its location and their feelings for one another, chronically on edge...

I changed ‘began’ to ‘stuttered’ to allude to an adrenalin kick, the way our hearts chug into overdrive when police strobes suddenly appear in our rear-view mirror... Not that I give men in uniform any reason whatsoever to pull me over.

Hush, Sandra!!!

The phrase “Not a bit comfortable” offers the feeling but not the warring emotion within Trent's soul. Going with the simple one word: “Uncomfortable” followed by “Maybe even painful” offers the reader a quick peek into Trent’s past, his feelings, just enough of a hint to know something happened, something went amiss or awry.

And yet being with Lyssa had never felt like a mistake, despite their youth, their emotions, their eighteen-year-old passions that swept them into uncharted territory. He was the guilty one, he knew that now. Had known it for some time. As the man, he was the God-sworn protector, the guardian, the leader.

I’m dumping that whole line referring to their youth. Better to leave it short, concise, firm, strong, a simple declarative. We want him recognizing that what they did was wrong, but it felt right. And perfect. And wonderful. But we can’t say all that yet, so we want to hint at it, that their first taste of love, of sex, of romance and intimacy was something special even though it was short-lived.

He’d failed miserably.

But it was a long time ago. They’d both moved on. He’d only wished he had the chance to apologize, to make things right, or at least as right as they ever could be, but once she’d dumped him and headed west, she hadn’t looked back.

After all that happened, he couldn’t say he blamed her.

At this point, I like this paragraph sequence just as it is. I may change it later, but right now it works and I don’t dilly-dally too much with this first draft revision, just enough to sharpen things, gain clarity for myself and the future reader. And set an emotional curve going, the beginnings of a roller coaster ride that should offer readers comfort just prior to jerking the rug out from beneath their feet. Uneven footing is the best-hugged fictional pathway.

He parked the car alongside Helen’s sedan. Everyone else had given gave her a wide berth, as if respecting her position by parking elsewhere.

Trent had no such issues. Not Trent.

*These changes were strictly for condensing, saying more with less. The reader already knows that Helen owns and runs the company he’s applying to, they’ve watched the corporate officers give her space in the boardroom, all but one... If I’ve set that stage well, I don’t need any of these words to make my point.*

Helen Walker was a smart, savvy woman who knew her business, the kind of CEO he enjoyed working with admired. She waited for him to catch up, then angled a look to the setting, the cozy cedar-sided restaurant nestled among the its hillside setting. “Bring back memories?”

Trent stopped,paused, startled. How could Helen...?

*Double descriptors again. “Smart, savvy.” A couple in a book, well-placed, is enough. More than that is overkill or overuse of some wonderful literary technique Margie Lawson taught us about a few months back. The word “admired” shows that Trent appreciates Helen’s business acumen and cuts two needless words. If you noticed, I’d doubled the phrase ‘the setting’, again not uncommon for me when I do a first draft. And I’m dumping both because this book is set in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains bordering Pennsylvania and New York, so hillside settings are a dime a dozen. Instead I offered a hint of the wood-siding on the restaurant, and then Trent’s surprise at her question.*

“You used to work worked here, right?” She sent him a quizzical look, half-frown, half-smile. “In the kitchen With Gary and Susan?”

*’Worked’ replaces the phrase ‘used to work’ and saves me two words. I added the adjective ‘quizzical’ because I want the reader to see Helen note his reaction through that one word. I dropped ‘in the kitchen’ because the reader will know that Trent washed dishes and did menial prep work, so of course it’s in the kitchen.*

Oh. Yes. Yes, I did.” Duh, Trent. Get a clue handle on this, okay? Of course she knew that, everyone knew that. What they didn’t know was his relationship with Lyssa. Gary Langley wouldn’t have thought too highly of his beautiful, smart approved of his daughter taking up with trailer trash the kid who got dumped along the side of the road, no matter how good he was on the football field.

*The ‘oh’ sounds feminine to me. “Get a clue” sounds more contemporary than get a handle on this... but that might get used elsewhere, later. I dumped the ‘thought too highly...etc.’ because I don’t need all that there. The reader has already met Alyssa, they like her, and they know Gary’s got issues. No need to repeat that here. And it saves me six words. Six words I can use elsewhere later. Like for KISSING!!!!*

“Jonas and I came here often," she explained. "He loved the prime rib. Always said Gary had a special hand with it like no other.”

Propriety pushed Trent to nod agreement, but it wasn’t as if not because he had anything to go on. A kid washing dishes and peeling potatoes didn’t get wasn’t invited to sample things like prime rib.

*Adding the adjective ‘special’ shows their appreciation for the prime rib (I’m getting HUNGRY!!!) and saves me two words. Dropping the ‘but’ phrase in the next sentence is simply for flow. I could have left it because it carries a colloquial sound and timing that I like, but it’s a phrase I tend to use too often so I watch out for it.*

So, let’s see how we did:

Trent thought he had this under control, his old feelings stowed in a virtual foot locker. He’d been gone a dozen years, a long time by anyone’s standards, and yet...

As his car snaked up the familiar mountain road, his heart stuttered a new rhythm, something sharp and staccato. Uncomfortable. Maybe even painful.

He shoved the feeling aside. He’d been a kid. He made mistakes. Who didn’t?

And yet being with Lyssa had never felt like a mistake. He was the guilty one, he knew that now. Had known it for some time. As the man, he was the God-sworn protector, the guardian, the leader.

He’d failed miserably.

But it was a long time ago. They’d both moved on. He only wished he had the chance to apologize, to make things right, or at least as right as they ever could be, but once she’d dumped him and headed west, she hadn’t looked back.

After all that happened, he couldn’t say he blamed her.

He parked alongside Helen. Everyone else gave her a wide berth, as if respecting her position by parking elsewhere.

Not Trent.

Helen Walker was a savvy woman who knew her business, the kind of CEO he admired. She waited for him to catch up, then angled a look to the cedar-sided restaurant nestled among the trees. “Bring back memories?”

Trent stopped, startled.

“You worked here, right?” She sent him a quizzical look, half-frown, half-smile. “With Gary and Susan?”

“Yes. Yes, I did.”

Duh, Trent. Get a clue, okay? Of course she knew that, everyone knew that. What they didn’t know was his relationship with Lyssa. Gary Langley wouldn’t have approved of his daughter taking up with trailer trash, no matter how good he was on the football field.

“Jonas and I came here often,” she explained. “He loved the prime rib. Always said Gary had a special hand with it.”

Propriety pushed Trent to nod agreement, not because he had anything to go on. A kid washing dishes and peeling potatoes wasn’t invited to sample things like prime rib.

The original version had 398 words.

The new version has 342. In a three-page excerpt I saved 56 words.

That’s huge. If you figure that over the course of an average 300 page book (done in Courier New) that’s 5,000 words I bought myself to play with.

And that’s only on the first go ‘round.

When I make stew, (NO, NOT RODEO STEW, THAT WAS A WHOLE DIFFERENT BLOG AND YOU KNOW IT!!!) I like big chunks of celery, carrot and potato.

In tuna or chicken salad I want my veggies cut finer, more pristine.

That’s how I view editing. It’s the fine-tuning of good ideas to solid ground, that basis for adding foreshadowing, hints, hesitation, etc. later on. With a good base (kind of like building a house, the driveway base does better if you drive on it for the first year before laying the asphalt...)the subtle nuances of each word shine brighter, work harder.

And leave me more room for writing kissing scenes like Julie’s, LOL!

Now, since you've stayed with me this long and haven't fallen asleep (that I know of!), here are a few things of great import:

I have a cold and I'm whiny, but that's not the important stuff. The important stuff is that I brought coffee, hot lemonade (I TOLD you I was whiny. Hot lemonade soothes my throat and nose...), tea and fresh strudel because Susan in this story makes GREAT strudel. They serve it at The Edge, their lovely hillside restaurant not far from Wellsville and Angelica...

Don't you just LOVE those names???

And if you comment today, be sure to leave me your e-mail address so you can be put in a drawing for a copy of Winter's End, my very first, numero uno, debut novel out later this month by Steeple Hill Books. SWEET!!!!

And I brought tissues. The kind with lotion. Because yes, I am a wuss. And trust me on this one, NO ONE is lining up to kiss me right now, even after Julie's hot-to-trot blog yesterday.

Oh mylanta.



Ruth Logan Herne said...

Okay, my live link to Cheryl's post didn't work, but if you put July 15 08 into the search box, it comes up....

Will I ever get good at live links?

And why is Mary that much smarter than me???

These and other questions like these are points of discussion I plan to take up with God if this cold kills me.

BTW, I want In Every Age sung at my funeral.

Mary, take care of that, won't you?????

sherrinda said...

Hi Ruthy!!! I love that you are up and are the first commenter! lol...even with a cold. I'm commiserating with you, girl. I woke up all sniffly and with a scratchy throat. Bleh.... So how does hot lemonade help your nose? ;)

I so loved this post! It is perfect timing as I edit away on my WIP. I've been cutting and deleting and then cutting some more. Your examples are so helpful. I find I learn better if I can see what to do, so the examples are Fabulous!!!! (I'm itching to read your book!)

Cindy W. said...

I so love this blog. So informative. It's like taking a writing class online. Thank you so much!

I would love to win a copy of Winter's End!

May God richly bless you!

Cindy Woolard



Sandra Leesmith said...

Okay folks, I'm taking bids and

WILL (do you hear me Ruthy)?

will tell for the right price,

what Ruthy was doing to get stopped by the police (at least he was to die for good looking) in the heartland of Texas.

Sorry about your cold. Bummer. I'll send over my heat pad. Keep that on your throat. It helps. You too Jessica.

And since Ruthykins has germs I'll offer to cook although I have to admit I can't cook like Ruthy does. She's a fantastic cook.

But here goes. something hot for colds and cold weather.

How about steaming bowls of Irish steel cut oats and/or cream of wheat and/or Nature's Best Seven Grain cereal.

With that we have a tray with bowls of raisins, dates, dried cranberries, fresh blueberries, walnuts and homemade applesauce that is piping hot.

Cinnamon toast with wildflower honey.

And for those who need protein, eggs benedict.

Hmmm, I needed to use Ruthy's wordiness advice and cut some of this down. LOL

Pepper Basham said...

Oh Ruthy,
I hope that hot lemonade helps you feel better soon.
Thanks for the detailed edit. I'm so BAD at being concise - obviously- it's a family trait. :-)
My agent gave me three little tips which sound a whole lot like some of yours:
1. Why use two words of description, when one will do
2. Don't be redundant
3. If a noun will work, use it instead of an adjective.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, Sandra, THANK YOU for stepping in to cook! No one wants me touching their food today.

Sniff, sniff.

In truth it's more like snort, snort, snuffle, snuffle. Do you remember the Bill Cosby episode (I LOVE THAT MAN) where he has the Kleenex stuffed up his nostrils?

TMI, I know, but you can all commiserate. Yes. I'm Tissue Girl.

Sherrinda, I don't know if the hot lemonade helps at all, but it's all kind of nice and warm and sweet, like a Mom stroking your fevered brow, you know???

(I TOLD you I was whiny. ;)

And it really tastes good. Yummy good. Not as good as Sandra's food, but my taste buds aren't up to snuff, dagnabbit. But those hot oats, nuts and raisins??? Perfect.

Sherrinda, I'm glad this helped. I remember seeing that light bulb when I read Cheryl's post and thinking "Wait. This is SO doable."

So you play with that wip and let me know.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cindy, I love your country bear tag line. Totally love it.

Tell me where it comes from? A family thing, a nickname?

And we are the CHEAPEST writing gig around, that's for sure, and heaven knows with fifteen of us we Never Run Out Of Things To Say...


Vince will testify to that, LOL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pep, that's it in a nutshell, sweet-cheeks.

And that way if you DO use two ever, it has great impact.

I also use a list of not-often used words when I work on a book or a series, and I try to plug them in here and there because writers become dependent on THEIR words, THEIR phrases, THEIR timing.

Sometimes it's good and really necessary to shake that up a bit, toss in some fluff.

Got a tissue, Pep? I'm running low.

And some Vicks Vapo Rub would be nice.

And a blankie.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

And SANDRA....



Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Ruthy feel better soon!

Thanks for the tips!
Julie had me rewriting my love scene and now you will have me being the word ninja! You ladies are always an inspiration for my early am writing! I'll try some hot lemonade(hope it's pink and extra sweet)!

Janet Dean said...

Great post, Ruthy! Your wip is sucking me in. Even before the cuts, that's an impressive first draft. Fun to see your mind at work as you chop and dice words. They are afterall only words.

I used to be Queen of A Lot. Princess of A Bit. LOL I've learned to delete qualifiers. Let me qualify that.:-) Unless it fits a wacky character's pattern of speech.

Stuffing prose with wordiness not only gives readers indigestion, it steals space for giving important details and milking an emotional scene like those kissing scenes you're talking about, Ruthy.

Sorry about the cold, kiddo. Have you tried Zinc lozengers?

Janet Scissorhands :-)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, my pet, the problem with zinc lozenges is that they taste like zinc...


But I love that you were queen of a little, a lot and a bit.

I think we've all done that, LOL!

And those kissing scenes, well as we discovered yesterday they're totally worth lingering over.


Who doesn't love a good kiss????

Pepper Basham said...

For you I'm brewing up a nice pot of English Breakfast Tea. I never liked hot tea until I went to England and had it hte 'proper' way.
Now I'm addicted. Of course, I put enough sugar in it to bake a cake (which I think has some bad connotation in England- kind of like sweet tea up North ;-), but I'll lay low on the sugar for your cup, Ruthy. Since I'm sure you're probably sweet enough.

Hey, what's wrong with Mary? She's having a coughing fit all of a sudden? ;-)

Sweatheart39 said...

I have some extra Vicks Vap-O-Rub and an air humidifier to sooth the sore throat for you. Poor thing!

I'm still working on my kiss scene, but it got wordy also. So I'm combining both yesterday and today to my WIP. LOL. Talk about multi-tasking.

Dawn Ford

Melanie Dickerson said...

You're such a professional, Ruthy.

I always want to be in the drawing, even if I forget to put in my email address. (Most of you guys know my email address already.) But here it is, because I would love to win your book, Ruthy.
melaniedickerson at knology dot com

Julie Lessman said...

Okay, I think this is the very first time that I have ever seen this done THIS well, Ruthy, honestly.

Talk about a primo lesson in editing!! Although to be honest, I thought your first draft was sensational, but then I read the final, and my jaw sagged. Not just because it was so well written -- tight and clean -- but because for someone who enjoys talking like you do, you sure do know how to sharpen the pencil! I am in awe ... but then I am anyway when it comes to your writing and your wit. I said it before and I'll say it again -- you should have been published a long time ago, but then God's timing is everything, right?

Truly excellent post that had me at "Crisp, Clean, Concise -- and that's without one single lip lock in sight. Now THAT'S saying something!


Pepper Basham said...

oops, I forgot my email too. Thanks for hte reminder, Melanie.

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, please, Sandra, tell everyone about Ruthy and other Seekers' run-in with the law!! :)

Ruthy, loved the post! I'm so, so wordy. (See, I couldn't just say "so wordy".) It's partly a voice thing. You know how we draw out everything here in the South. Multiple syllables and multiple words and phrases. :) I have to tone that down.

Hey, are you snowbound?? We might actually get some flurries tomorrow!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kerri, pink lemonade rocks the big kahuna. Absolutely!

And not too hot... Just hot enough to sooooooothe.


And I have a notion to do some kissing scene checking tonight, when all is calm, all is bright...

In other words, when I'm alone and can think straight, LOL!

Gina Welborn said...

Ruthy wordy? I'm stunned almost speechless at the admission. Who knew.

Thanks for the lessen in being I shall now be.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Dawn, yes, you're totally on top of this and I'm super-duper glad you came by Seekerville today because you have the order of events properly done:

#1: Taking care of ME

#2: Working those sentences until they sing... Well, not really, but you get the drift. Singing sentences are a little weird unless your Rodgers or Hammerstein.

Thanks for the Vicks. It's helping. Less whining on my part would help the throat no doubt, but I find whining quite attractive, don't you??? In myself, of course!


They should suck it up and behave.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my gosh, Pep, the tea is lovely.

(Brits say things are lovely so I'm playing in kind here...)

Just lovely.

See, this is why it's SO nice to have friends. Friends don't scold unless you go over the top with the whining, AND they bring you nice things.

I love you guys.

And hey, did I mention this story has a SECRET BABY?????

Kind of like the Nativity Story, right??? Secret Baby... Young mother... Called home for reasons out of her control....

Oh, yeah, God's the original great story crafter.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Melanie, I love that word.


Eeee gads, that SO doesn't sound like me, and yet...

It rocks, tee hee! Ruthy=professional....

Oh my stars, now I have to behave to maintain the image.

And I will always have you in the drawing, Mel, and I'm tickled pink to know that lovely book of yours is going to see binding soon.

Loved it when I saw it in a contest AGES ago....

Wonderful, wonderful.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jules, you tired them out yesterday with KISSING....


I better stop talking about it because everyone that stops will just skip on back there and miss a very valuable, FREE lesson on the chopping block of verbosity. We mustn't have that, LOL!

And I love this story that's developing. Trent. Lyssa. Their beautiful son, Jaden. Her baby daughter, Cory...

Oh mylanta, talk about star-crossed lovers... I seriously don't think Rhett and Scarlett have anything on Trent and Lyssa. And after all this time, could they possibly get together????

I greatly fear they can not....


But then, as Jules said, IN GOD'S TIME...

Not ours.

Hey, Jules, can you adjust that heating pad, dear? Yes, right there would be fine...

Just fine...

Love you, kid. And those Boston Irishers... For obvious reasons of course!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Missy, NO! The snow missed us but hammered D.C. and NYC and Boston, so lawyer boy and audit boy got smacked down with blizzard conditions and heavy snow...

And so did Steeple Hill. Unnamed sources on Broadway were NOT AMUSED...


Hmmm... wordy, Southern style...

You know what, Miss? Your beautiful Southern gentility comes through without the wordiness. That warmth kind of oozes from your words, very genteel, sweet and flowing.

I mostly recognize wordiness in novels in the middle, as if the author isn't quite sure how to fill those 30,000 words dead center. Not exactly a sagging middle, but that idea, I guess, of fill-in-the-page.

When I see someone describing how people make breakfast, or scan the newspaper, citing articles, or describe their day as if it mattered and it doesn't, not to the story, anyhow, those are fill-in-the-page play-by-plays.

Play-by-plays are better left to sports commentators. Not authors. If Mary were available, she'd shoot someone, just to up the ante. Because no one cares about what they had for breakfast unless someone's going to get indicted for murder later on after poisoning the eggs Benedict. (Which are yucky anyway, so they should be poisoned... Who'd know?)

My pills must have kicked in. I actually engaged my brain for just a minute there, LOL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Was that flash-in-the-pan concise woman our GINA?????



That was smooth, Welborn. I'm impressed.

Did you bring me anything, Welborn, because you're a minister's gal and they're supposed to minister to the sick.

And I'M SICK....

So come back... Be nice... Chocolate is always welcome.

Pepper Basham said...

I gonna 'hint' and play nice since your sick, but if you're having kissing-envy and need an outlet, I sent you a certain request, for a certain scene, for a certain Kissing BlogFEST going on, on some certain blog. you need an outlet or something. Well...ya know
(how was that for verbose and a bit anomic)

Gina Welborn said...

Ahh, dearest Ruthy, here's a cyber hug.

((( )))

And I took my vitamins so I'm not fretting catching what you've got.

I was concise becasue I tweaking my kissing scenes in my medieval before I get back to work on my vermont story. I want to have it finished by the end of March.

PatriciaW said...

Thanks for the revision workshop, Ruthie. You pointed out some cuts I wouldn't have noticed. I've found that my second drafts get much longer, then I have to go in with a scapel, maybe a cleaver, to cut the writing down.

Casey said...

I am trying to learn pithy, so I apprecaited this blog post. Thanks. Hope you feel better soon!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Doh. Pepper.

And I forgot.

I'm such a slacker.

Does the sniffly nose get me out of trouble????

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Patricia, I tend to do that too, say too much on the second time around, like I was afraid they wouldn't get it the first time...

or the second....

Or the... sigh... yes... third.

You and me, babe.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Casey, you sweetheart.

Thank you, sweet thang.

And pithy is good. MOST of the time.

But not when kissing. ;)

Pepper Basham said...

Actually Ruthy, knowing we have a few like-minded traits got you out of trouble LOOONG before your sniffly nose ;-)
Life, and then some
Your wonderful tidbits on concise writing helped too. ANd your sassy humor...
Definitely a plus

Kav said...

Sigh. I didn't see a thing wrong with your first fact I wanted more but then I read your second draft and I could see how the cuts you made improved the flow.

Either way I love your'voice' and all the delicious hints at romance and angst yet to come in that story so write fast please. You need to get that book published so I can read the rest!

Oh -- and conserving words for kissing scenes is a grand idea!!!!

Erica Vetsch said...

I'm forever smacking up against my wordcount, Ruthy, so this post is very helpful.

Shorter wordcounts teach you to make every word count, don't they?

Gotta love tissues with lotion.

Edna said...

please enter me into the contest

I follow you on google

I have your button on my blog


Diane said...

What a story! Thanks for the giveaway. :O)

estrella8888 at

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Haha wow! I think I'm ready to read that book right now Ruth! I think it's going to be a winner!

xoxo~ Renee

Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

Do I detect a little Ruthian irony in that your post on ‘crisp, concise’ writing is one of the longest posts I’ve ever read on Seekerville?

I love it. : )

Here’s a true story.

A critic and fellow philosopher once told Immanuel Kant that his “Critique of Pure Reason” was a great work but did it have to be so long?

Kant replied: “It would have been a lot shorter if I’d had more time to write it.”

I do have an important artistic difference however.

You wrote: “I like big chunks of celery, carrot and potato…” in my stew.

Oh, no. The bigger the potato chunk, the less surface area is exposed to absorb the wonderful, rich, savory, broth. (I call it juice.) It takes more work but my potatoes are never more than a quarter inch square.

No one makes stew like an Irishman. : )


Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

I should have added that I had a copy of “Winter’s End” and my upgraded Sony Reader erased it and disabled all my eHarlequin eBooks – that 186 books. I can’t open any of them. Sony is working on the problem. Never Upgrade!

I also ordered a Large Print “Winter’s End” so that’s why I didn’t put an email on my last post.


Pamela Mason said...

Ruthy, oh dear--hate miserable colds! Keep drinking that hot tea & lemonade & rest up!
I learned so much from your lesson on editing--I like seeing the 'why's' of the cuts, not just seeing 'don't need the extra words'. Grrr, that sure doesn't help! Here I thought they were all mots justes!
I didn't get to weigh in yesterday with Julie's post, but OhMyMercy! 'Nuff said. Pithy, yes?
Good diversion for this grouchy toothache I've been nursing for 3weeks now. Move over on that whining couch.
Ya'lls blog has been a terrific online writing lesson . Thank you all so much!

Tina Pinson said...

Hey Ruthy,

I bet if your drinking lemonade you are a puckering. Nows the time to go get pulled over by another gorgeous patrolman.

Anyhoo, Thanks for the post. I'm cutting, it gets easier with each slight but mercy...I feel like my middle name is "redundant".

I have a knack for it. (A lesson that takes a while to unlearn.) (Scratch that.) It's a difficult lesson to unlearn.

I'm editting a story (right now) (chopping that) with redundant bumps galore. I know it, but knowing and making the proper cut is like combing my hair with a brick. Well maybe not that bad. Because I have managed to lop off a few thousand words.

But your post compels me to take the hatchet and cut (a bit) closer. Gulp.

KC Frantzen said...


This is a good class!

Or is it Ruthy has class and is good. I fergit.

Yes please - ksf895 at citlink dot net

Hope you feel better. Basil tea is a wonderful thing for colds. Zicam mouth spray - swear by it. (Can I say that?) and echinacea/goldenseal.

Congrats on the release of the book - YIPPEE!!!!!

Tina Pinson said...

Okay so the word I was slice not slight, and I forgot to give you my email on the slight chance I my name gets called.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kav, you understand you're my new BFF, right?

But sweet thang, I don't have your e-mail....


Just sayin'... :)

And did I say thank you for the lovely compliment, because that alone made me feel better.

Much less sniffly.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Erica, yes on all counts.

Shorter word counts make you a tighter writer...

Lotion tissues.... just plain nice.

Grabbing one now.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Edna, thank you so much!

Always a pleasure to hear from you, my reader friend.

You're in.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Dianne, welcome aboard, sweet-cheeks.

You're in, dear girl.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, I'm soooooo sorry about your Sony! Oh my gosh, bud, that's infuriating. I hate when that stuff happens, and 186 books....

Remember we were talking about that two weeks ago, the age of digital and electronics. Your dilemma is a perfect (because it's so IMPERFECT) example of why people shy away.

Because every one of us has lost info/data/something that's 'locked into' impregnable digitalia.

Until, oops...


And then you ordered another one??? Oh Vince, I'd have sent you one. Can you cancel it and I'll send you a large print edition from here? You already paid once. I hate to see you pay again.

Cancel your order and send me your snail mail address to

I'll get it right out to you.

You're too good a friend to have to deal with that nonsense.

And I know what you mean about the potatotes.

And I can't say I disagree. Surface area is part of what made microsoft megarich.

The same concept can be applied to gravy/juices/broth.

Now I'm hungry. And stuffy.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pam, waving frantically at you from upstate NY!!!



That is no fun at all, but luckily I brought some pretty Valentine cookies (I haven't touched them, promise) with frosting and red sugar sprinkles.

Very friendly cookies. Lots of calories. Pam I think it's just the ticket for you because you were so nice to me.

Everyone's being nice to me. Even though I'm the biggest whiny-pants I know.

This is a big thank you hug ((( ))) from me to you guys.

All o' youse.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tina, good girl.

This is me being SO proud of you. Because I'm...

THAT girl.

Miss Wordy-von-Word-a-lot, whose middle name is Loquacious Verbosity...

did I spell them right?

You rock, woman. Keep cutting. Make the point and move on.

Leave room for kissing.

Pamela Mason said...

Gee thanks, Ruthy. I'm slicing & dicing my wip right now.But question: how do you preserve your voice????? You know, that unique way with words that makes you...You.
They must be soft cookies to be friendly cookies for me right now. Advil hasn't kicked in yet.
Forget about chicken soup for supper, now. What you need is some spicy red beans & rice with some boudin. That'll unstuff your nose, fix you right up!
I'll be sipping, slurping the soup. Don't.Want.Root.Canal.
Or anything cold.
Pass me some hot lemonade, sugar.

Emma said...

Hi Ruthy
I hope you are better soon.Please enter me in the Winter's End giveaway. augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.Thank you.

Myra Johnson said...

Wordiness--ah, the bane of every writer. At least most of us. But I'm always amazed at how relatively simple it is to find places to cut when I need to. Repetition, unnecessary description, adverbs and adjectives, dialogue that is little more than chit-chat.

Good post, Ruthy. Even if Vince did notice it was one of the longest ones yet!

Audra Harders said...

Good grief, Ruthy! The good Lord blessed you with enough words to carry a dozen folks through their lifetimes!

Do you feel like you're going to bust whenever you get laryingitis?

LOL, but seriously. Great timing for a great post. I've taken the next few days off from work to finish my revisions and this post is EXACTLY what I'm looking for.

And needing.

And wanting.

Crisp, clean, concise. Step away from the chopping block Ruthy, I'm wielding the butcher blade.

I love the way your mind works. Reading your rough, it sounds just like you : ) The cleaned up version reminds me of Ruthy on her best behavior.

Both very good sides of the same author : )

Well, I'm printing off this post and carrying it across the office to the computer that receives NO INTERNET.

Work time. Not play time.

Nice job, RLH. Nice job!!

Beth J said...

Ruthy, I can personally vouch for the fact that you love to talk and are an amazing cook!

I have been the lucky(?) recipient of countless lectures (Ruthy might call them 'advice sessions') that go on and on and on... :)

I have also been on the receiving end of amazing meals throughout my childhood and still am as an adult. Which is good because I don't cook. My husband claims that I can, but I have no desire to cook a thing which leads to several meals eaten at Mom & Dad's every week. I'm definitely okay with the free 'Ruthy meals' scenario in my life! :)

~ Beth

Sandra Leesmith said...

Have you noticed Ruthy has totally avoided the subject of Texas???

And Missy is the only one who has bid for the juicy inside story about Ruthy.

And Ruthy dearest, you ARE whiny today. Poison in the eggs benedict after I went to all that work????

But I have to agree with you. They are yucky, but they are yuppy impressive. I mean out here "the thing to have for a classy breakfast" So was offering out of pity.

What would you like for an afternoon pick me up???

OF COURSE I'm sending Godiva over the Rockies and across the prairies. Anyone else want some?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Renee, thank you, sweet thing! I hope you're right because it's a charming story, totally understandable in my never-as-humble-as-it-should-be opinion.


So I'm hoping for a 2011 release date on this. Depends on how fast I write...

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pam Mason asked how do you slice and dice a wip and preserve your voice...

I think if the voice is strong enough, the slicing and dicing actually makes it more succinct and recognizable. And I use little ways to set my writing apart, to brand it as 'conversational/lyrical' rather than one or the other. And that helps the flow...

Let me show you what I mean.

Using incomplete sentences here and there, the way people actually think, talk and react in normal conversational day-to-day flow, helps to bring the characters into the reader's lives, their living rooms, making them neighbors, friends, aunts, uncles, parents, etc. That's 'conversational' English or writing, the kind that allows internal thought to blossom with personality, without as much worry for form, format, grammar, etc.

When I want to create an ambiance, I let myself get a little lyrical, a little poetic. I think the trick is balancing the two to complement each other.

If I wax poetic for a page about starlit skies and frigid temperatures, I'll lose your interest.


If I let my hero smack himself upside the head internally for being a total schmuck, for making the same mistakes he's made in the past, for ignoring the obvious and assuming things would get better in time with no concerted action on HIS part, I can then segue into the calming night, the starlight, the backdrop of peace and tranquility if he only had sense enough to grasp it.

And that's the kind of segue that helps to wrap the reader's heart, pull them in, because they've all been THAT man, that schmuck, that Gomer who ignored what they knew they should do and hoped for the best.

With fewer words (in most cases) comes greater power over your voice.

And I hope that makes sense, Pam!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Emma, you're in, sweetie and THANK YOU for feeling sorry for me.

I'm annoying myself, I'm THAT whiny, and the entire world is staying away from me. Partially because I'm somewhat disgusting but mostly I think is the whining...


But I appreciate your sympathy, honey. Honest, heart-felt...

Not like my friends that kick me in the pants and tell me to tough it out, suck it up.

(Which is exactly what I need, of course. Why is what we need what we least want???)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra, we're ignoring that part of Vince's post because I don't think it REALLY, TRULY counts if you copy the same thing three times to show three versions.


Or does it just become hopelessly redundant?

But yeah, the length was indeed ironical.

And of course my buddy Vince would pin me on it. Savvy dude.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ah, Sandra....

You always forgive me when I'm being a dork. Or when I poison people. ;)

And I was tickled pink that you brought food, and I'd like some more now, please. I'm hungry. Kind of. And tuckered out.

BUT... I have to say I'm having so much fun writing this book that it pulls me awake every morning at 4:00 A.M. just to see what these two will do. Say. Think. And how will her father handle Trent's return?

And the town?

And Jaden? To all of a sudden have a dad show up out of nowhere... Your mother's deception...


Why would anyone DO such a thing?

Why indeed??? :)

I'm yammering, can you tell? I do that when I get tired. Right before I get stupid-silly.


Ruth Logan Herne said...



Yes, this is just what you and I talk about, that chiseling through the layers to reveal the important stuff and move on.

Forestall yawning at all costs, LOL!

Yawning readers (unless they're so enraptured they can't put the book down, WHOLE DIFFERENT THING!!!) mean we're talking too much.

An obvious Ruthy hazard. Gadzooks.

Walt M said...

A chance to win Ruthy's book? Can there be any prize more wonderful than that? Can I imagine how lucky I would count myself if I didn't have to sleep out in the cold. (OK, so it will be March.) Oh, can I stand the wait?

Ruthy, is that too wordy? :-)


Helen Gray said...


I’m afraid to post when you’re at the helm. I’m afraid you’ll have noticed that I never bring food and lay into me with the wet noodle. I CAN cook, but I don’t LIKE to. I avoid the kitchen as much as possible—and don’t recognize a high ratio of the items this gang brings. Remember, I’m a MO hillbilly.

Timely piece. Good job.

Just this week I read a quote that fits. James Michener said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”

I WANT to be an excellent rewriter. I hope I’m improving. In the past three months I’ve revised five manuscripts. My brain’s shut down. Going back to my newly begun project.

I’m glad Helen is a smart and savvy character.


Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

Redundant makes long,

BTW: eHarlequin has been very nice. They will let me re-download the eBooks that I have purchased from them in the past. However, my Sony Reader won’t load them and my Adobe Digital Editions will not load them now either. For any Geeks out there I get Adobe error code (-432).

The Sony techs took over my computer and messed up all my eBook readers. They said they would be back with me but they have not so far. Currently there are too many eBook formats and copy protection systems.

That’s why I will buy larger print books when they are available. But that’s not perfect either. I ordered four large print books and one of them, Cheryl Wyatt’s book, come in small print anyway.

“Winter’s End” was in a multi-book order so I can’t cancel the order. I’m hoping it will arrive tomorrow anyway. But I’d love to have an autographed copy in large print. If you send me a copy, I’ll give my copy to Myra, if she does not already have one. How’s that?


Project Journal said...

Hey Ruthy!
I finally made it! Phew!

Nice post, girly : ) I'm sorry you have a cold though.

Sometimes I could really use this for my English essays when I need to cut them down, lol!

Guess what I'm doing tomorrow?! Since I'm in jazz choir, we're the ones doing the singing part of the the drumroll please?
Singing Valentines!!!
So people could buy valentine's with the choice of 4 songs:
1) My Girl
2) Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
3) L-O-V-E
4) Seasons of Love
It's gonna be pretty crazy...I love how our school values this over our education because guess what else, we're gettin outta class for it too! : P Ah well! It's the Friday before vacation week, what can you do, right?!

Just wanted to tell you that, thought it might cheer up your day : ) The thought of me singing these goofy songs to silly "love-struck" teens tomorrow for Valentine's Day!

Ausjenny said...

hi all im late today we moved furinture yesterday and then I spent time tidying last night and today I was on bookshop and hence im late.
im sure I could cut that down but im to tired to think.
Ruthy I love talking and tend to over talk but when it comes to putting pen to paper I end to normally not have to many words.
what I can express talking and describing I cant seem to on paper.
Please enter me I would love to read your book.
I do like the word clean from your title thats how I now feel!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jenny, oh my stars, girlfriend, that sounds like quite a job but YES!!!

Don't you feel so good, clean and organized when it's over? I'm sitting here totally impressed because I haven't seen organized in, oh, let's see...


You're in, kid.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, that's still a pain in the patoote my friend, so I'm going to be praying that these guys either get it figured out or come up with a new system.

But how nice to hear that eHarlequin is allowing you to download your books again. Here's a shout out to them, because that's very COOL!!!

And double-dog thanks for the offer for Myra-kins but she's already got a copy of Winter's End. And Dude, IF you hate the book once you read it (you won't, I can promise you that right now, it is absolutely lovely...) you can tell me.

After all, I have a HUGE stash of tissues on hand. I can use 'em for tears or a runny nose, LOL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Walt, you sweetheart, how's tricks, Babe?

You are totally in on the drawing...

And tell us how your story's progressing. I haven't seen an update.

I'm tellin' you, Walt-baby, the whole get up at 4:00 am thing...

Serious writing time gets in every day.

Try it. You might like it. Then let me know and we can toast each other with caffeine in the wee smalls, cross-country.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Helen, I will always bring food for you so don't you worry your pretty little head about it.


And I must confess, DO NOT LET THIS GO TO YOUR HEAD, HELEN....

When I created Helen Walker, the CEO of Walker Electronics, I pictured you. Strong, lovely, focused, a woman who came into her own later in life but is taking the horse by the reins and running with it, maintaining the company she and her husband built, holding on through tough times, praying for better things to come. And one of those better things is our hero, Trent.

So there.

And I LOVE the name Helen. More little girls ought to be named Helen.

Mary, see what you can do about that, okay?

Helen, it's awesome that you've rewritten those five. And I do that too, sometimes I just have to jump into something new, both feet, just to cleanse my head of characters who've been lurking there for far too long to be considered healthy or normal.

But then no one has ever accused me of being normal. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...


I LOVE SINGING VALENTINES!!! I remember kids doing that when I was in school...

I think.

If I can REMEMBER that far back, LOL!!!

You have a barrel of fun, my dear. Enjoy. And those college acceptances tell us that you're a savvy little chick who won't suffer for missing a day of classes in your senior year because you were smart enough to put the time in when it counted.

God bless you, kiddo, you are a true inspiration. Have fun!!!

Ausjenny said...

Hey Ruthy, by clean i meant I felt clean the 2 rooms are anything but although the study is neatish. spent several hours last night packing it tight so the landlords can come over and put the last pieces of furniture into the room and it is like a puzzle its a tight fit. then the other room will become my dining/craft/whatever you want to use it for room. It was going to have my spare bed but as I never have people stay Think will leave that in the Shed till its needed.
They are leaving a couple of bits of furniture in there but first we have to remove them so we can strip the underlay from the carpet thats been pulled up. and then the nails and then we (which I think means me) have to sand it back and put on 2 coats of polish then I get my room so I would say 2 - 3 weeks as college starts up this week. But the sooner the better as cos of this I have stuff everywhere, cant cook till its done cant do a few things! I can read!

Project Journal said...

Lol Ruthy! You have a very sharp mind, of course you can remember back "that far" (your words of course, NOT mine *wink*)

It was SOOOOOO fun!! And Alicia even sent me I had to be embarrassed : / But the singing was just amazing! We got to go sing for the special ed kids and they loved it! Bless their hearts, we sang more than one just because they were such a great audience! It really made people's day, I think...

Walt M said...

Ruthie, you're on.