Put A Period on Good Writing

Quoting from a recently-read novel: “———– stared at the plastic checkered
tablecloth on the table.”

Duh! I say those three tagged-on words
(on the table) insult the reader. Unless the writer thought we pictured
a tablecloth covering a window or door. A period after
tablecloth would  have sufficed.

It is too easy for a writer on a
roll to over-write–clutter phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and pages with
extraneous words. Sometimes the urge (or editorial request/expectation) to meet
a novel’s total word-count trumps common sense.

There are strict
word-count rules for genres and age-appropriate work. Trying to  keep up with
published writers of upper middle and young adult work, I stretched and
stretched till I had well over 9,000 words in a second or third draft of my book
suited to third through sixth-grade readers. But then I bumped up against a
pro–the author of Mrs. Wishy Washy fame, Joy Cowley.

“A Junior Chapter book should have no more than 6,000 words,” she informed me and
over the week of serious editing and a couple of one-on-one mentoring
sessions, 3,000 words vanished. And saving only the best, It Doesn’t Grow on
Trees
became my latest pride and joy for children. Nothing was lost in the
cutting–only made the better to hold a young reader’s attention.

The lesson I learned the hard way stuck with me and has served me well:
Sometimes you just have to kill your ‘darlings’.”

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