Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I was thinking today about the art of writing. About how writers choose their words and how they decide what order to place them on the page.

I find myself turning away manuscript after manuscript not because the concept is weak---a lot of writers have fascinating concepts and intriguing plots. However, the writing--be it underwritten, overwritten, choppy, flowery, stagnant, slippery, etc--does not draw me in and make me lose myself in the story.

I was looking at one of my old posts that I wrote before I was an agent. When I was like most of you, struggling with the art of writing. At the time, I was writing poetry so my post focuses on words and making every word count. I understand that novels are 30k, 60k, 90k words long. But what if you can make every one of those 90,000 word count?

Here is the post I am referring to: HOW DOES THAT WORD FEEL?
Be sure to read the comments by a couple of the best poets writing today: Douglas Florian and J. Patrick Lewis

Also, for those of you who missed it, The Intern had a great post on copy editors: HAIL TO THE COPY EDITOR

And one more, THE COPY EDITORS' SURVIVAL GUIDE, INCLUDING DEALING WITH WRITERS:) which features THE SUBVERSIVE COPY EDITOR. This is the book Oprah would write if her vocation were saving writers from embarrassment, rather than saving the whole world.

So next time you let the words flow, next time you go back to revise, next time you submit your manuscript to a critique partner, to an agent, to an editor, make every word count. How do those 30k, 60k, 90k words feel?


  1. Great advice and great links!

  2. This is something I think about a lot. A critique partner of mine said last night that she writes her first draft for plot, and then has to layer in each new element in revision after revision--that she can only concentrate on one "feature" at a time (emotion, character arc, sub plots, etc.)

    I'm in my umpteenth revision of a novel right now and this time I'm thinking about words. So your post really hit home. I'm thinking things like "How can I say this so it really pops?" and "Is there a better way to say this?"

    Usually, or maybe even always, there IS a better way.

    Thanks for the great reminder and links!

  3. They feel great when I'm writing them.

    Less so when I read them.

  4. I'm a poet myself and those were great tips! Your poems are awesome also, keep on writing!


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