Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beware - Don't Look If You're Easily Grossed Out

B.S. Photo - Rascal before the snow.

Whether or not you're a dog owner, you'll know what I'm talking about here.

The past few months, we've had tons of snow in our part of Illinois, but thanks to the recent warmer weather and rain, most of the white stuff has disappeared.

Hidden underneath the pretty white stuff was - to put it indelicately - a lot of crap. I spent a good part of Saturday and  this morning scooping it up with a shovel and depositing it into plastic garbage bags.

You may wonder how I can think of relating this nasty little chore to writing. Here goes -

After you've finished your manuscript, it may look beautiful and wonderful to you, but beware. Hidden under that false beauty can be all sorts of nasty piles of stuff that need to be removed. If you're savvy enough, you can tackle the cleanup job yourself. Otherwise, you may need the help of a critique group or editor to do the chore for you. Here are a few nasties to clean up:

Backstory dumps - Do readers really need to know right away every little thing that already happened?

Overly long descriptions - Sure, they look pretty, but do they move the story forward?

Adjectives and adverbs - They're the lazy way of writing and slow down a story. Make sure you have the best words for what you want to say, like action verbs and exact nouns.

Orphan letters - Did you start a word in your writing excitement, then begin another one without completing the first?

I told you I could do it. Never underestimate my ability to relate anything to writing. Anyway, today I'll be working on my Rascal manuscript and looking for spots to remove some of that, to put it indelicately, crap.

If you know of other hidden nasties to look for, please share with us. Or, maybe you have a dog and can relate to my chore today. (g)


  1. We all have pet words we need to weed out. Plus words like just and that which tend to creep into our writing.

  2. Same thing happened here; my dad used to say, a whitewash covers a lot of territory and makes things look better, and so does the snow in this instance. Gotta find my shovel now....As to rewriting, well we pros know that writing IS rewriting. I put it aside, work on anohter project for a few months and go back and find all the crapola that needs to go and some better smelling stuff that needs go in.

  3. I don't envy your task. That's one reason why we have cats, same mess, but no going out and freezing.

    Now that I'm almost back, I have a couple of manuscripts to work on, like tea leaves.

  4. Anonymous12:00 PM

    Morgan, I have a dog, but mysteriously enough he always seems to do his business somewhere other than my lawn. I guess it's because I live out in the boonies.

    That said, a large part of my job when editing other folks' books is finding their poop and shoveling it to one side so they can either ditch it or replace it with something better.

    I actually have a book that I'm editing right now, so I need to take my shovel in hand once more. *sigh* Oh, well, it's a living!

  5. That was wonderfully done, Morgan! I started a story a few months back and thought it was perhaps some of the best writing I'd done (how completely hubristic of me!)

    I took it in to my critique group who, fairly enough, took my nice chunk of American cheese and handed me back a veritable block of Swiss cheese. From that single story I have gleaned many a valuable tidbit. I may not finish the story now because I believe it served its purpose.

    We don't get snow down here in the Valley, but I allowed myself to think it was nice and white . . . once. :^)

  6. I have more deer poop on my lawn than dog poop. The dog knows to go in the woods.
    I get the analagy and I agree. I always put away my ms for at least a month before revising.

  7. Anonymous1:59 PM

    Backstory dumps - Do readers really need to know right away every little thing that already happened?

    I call this data dumping and am removing quite a bit of it from BREAKTHROUGH that will be re-released next month. I estimate editing out 7-8 percent of the total word count.

    Stephen Tremp

  8. I hope you keep the same cover, Steve. I really like it.

    Morgan Mandel

  9. Good content, Morgan! I enjoyed your post.

  10. Haha...well we live on an island as you know and there is a bunch of marsh grass behind us where I take my doggies so no shoveling for me!

  11. I find I can relate the most trivial matter to my writing, too! Great picture, and loved the metaphor.

  12. Hi Morgan,

    As someone who has 12 dogs to walk each day, I concur wholeheartedly with your comment on the horrid stuff! We've had tons of snow here in the UK and I've been faced with the same problem. We always clear up after our dogs but some folk seem to think it's okay to just kick snow over their dog's poop and leave it for unsuspecting people like me to tread in.

    Hope maybe one day you'll stop by Tilly's blog and see my pack of rescue dogs and read what they get up to.

    Best regards


  13. One of my works in progress is, topically enough, the fifth book in the Pet Vet series I co-write with my husband. The mss are about 8,500 words upon sub, but they're usually about 500-1000 words over length when we do the first draft. The pruning generally sorts the problem areas. The problem often lies in writing different mss for different companies. The things one editor would edit OUT will be edited IN by another.

  14. Wow, love Morgan's piece . . . and her puppy-dog. He's great.

    And all the comments are cogent and ring this person's bell, for sure. Rewriting and finding and throwing out cliches, is something I have to do. Love the oldies, unfortunately.

    Cheers to all on their rewriting and my own!

    Pat Harrington

  15. I don't think I have ever seen editing your novel compared with picking up the dog's crap. Best laugh of the day.

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