"Yeah, I've heard about that 'trim the fat' thing. You know," you say, "I don't really thinks that applies to me."  ::insert smiley::


Oh' kaaaay. Well, you know that 400 page novel you're wondering what to do with now because all your friends and family are saying it's great and your gut wrenches each time they say it, but have no idea why it wrenches?  You know,  the one sitting on your desk right now? Oh, it's so pretty. All typed out and looking at you whispering sweet little nothings, like...look at me, you did this, you're so wonderful, look at how many words you wrote, aren't you the writer! Yeah. Sorry. But, uh. You're gonna have to cut half of that shit out and start over. 

Gasp!  I know.

But, so true.

This is the deal. Half of what we write is total crap. No, really. It really is. I'll tell you why. Because it's word garbage. It's just stuff that spews out of our pea brains like lava from a volcano. 

But it's so good you think. No, it's not. It's crap. Hemingway? Okay, maybe. He may live. But the rest of us. Come on. Take a real good look at it. It's fat!!!

Half of that garbage is fat. It can be cut, cut, and cut again. Even after its massaged, it can be cut. And, honestly you don't want to massage anything before you make the first trim, anyway. Your hands will get all greasy for no reason. Trust me. I've tried it.

Okay, if you don't believe me, take the first fifty pages of your wonderful, genius, literary diamond and sit it on your desk right in front of you. Let's read....

La, la, la, la, la (I'm letting you read, here)...done?

Okay. Good. What'cha got? No, don't answer. I'll tell you what'cha got. Here goes (you may circle yes or no if you are so inclined):

Every other sentence has an ly word. Misuse of adverbs/weak at that:  Yes / No 

Every other sentence is explaining the sentence you just read. Regurgitation: Yes / No  

A little high and mighty on the lecturing of our own world and religious views, are we? Narrator interrupts: Yes / No

Simile, simile, simile, and simile again? Hellooo, one sunset looking like the stroke of a painter's brush is enough. Overuse of simile, metaphor, etc. (try poetry): Yes / No

Uh, oh shit. Who is that character? Failure to tie up LOOSE threads (more to the point...forgetting about a character): Yes / No

Where is the bad guy? Is he in your first fifty pages? Shame on you. Failure to introduce main characters in the first quarter of your story: Yes / No

Every sentence has the same structure as the last. There are eight different sentence patterns/structures. No sentence variation: Yes / No

Every other sentence is using the passive voice; in other words, the active/responsible party is not apparent. 
Passive voice: Yes / No  
                                Examples: (from The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Strauss -- highly recommended.)
                                Active: Barry hit the ball.
                                Passive: The ball was hit.

Your punctuation sucks! Run-ons, fragments, lack of parallelism, verb and subject disagreements, split infinitives... Go back to school! No, really. Most punctuation errors are caused by vague thoughts. If you don't really know what you want to say, then you're not going to say it clearly no matter how many words you splat up there on the word processor. Sentences lacks clarity: Yes / No

Paragraphs lack clarity (as above only worse): Yes / No

Carrying on about the color of a room or desk or ocean or potted plant for so long that you--and everyone else--has lost the point. I see you. You are rolling your eyes. Okay, look it. The only one that can get away with this kind of creative license is William Faulkner; otherwise it's simply digression. Failure to get to the point and move the story forward: Yes / No

Writing what doesn't matter within the scene. This is fat in its purest sense. Every word has to be there for a reason. If it's just words, cut it. Verbose writing: Yes / No

Okay. This is enough for you to chew on (ha, double entendre). I could keep on running with the list, but then you might have a Hemmingway moment. And no one wants that. 

A good book is a clear and to the damn point book. Within its pages, whether one hundred or a thousand, is a clear and distinct voice. The words you wrote jump off the pages to the reader's ears as if you are there speaking directly to him. 

If you can honestly give your volumnous precious a serious look with a sharp knife and trim away this garbage of needless crap then I bet your gut won't wrench the next time someone says, "I love it." You'll say, "I know, right?"

You'll know. After you trim the fat, you'll know you're that damn good.

Good luck to you, I'm off to the metaphorical kitchen for a Kin blade. 


05/09/2012 12:33pm

This was super great. Need to trim A-lot!


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    Sydney Wright

    Apocalyptic sci-fi writer, mother, wife, designer, and seeker of wisdom and truth.


    January 2013
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