Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Condensing Your Novel: An Analogy

"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." That's a quote from Blaise Pascal. (I adore his Pensees and his triangle thing. I'm now going to gratuitously insert the triangle because the Pensees is a bit long.)

Those words came to mind as I sat crafting... scratch that- failing to craft my book description for the e-novel I'm publishing on Smashwords. Distilling down a 75,000 word story into less than fifty words makes me want to scratch out my eyeballs. Instead of finishing it, I decided to blog about it.

I've written, as I'm sure have you, query letters and summaries. This is similar. Why does it seem to take so long to write something so short? Why do I hate this process so?

It's like a hiking trip... with small children. When packing, each item (word) should be useful or it's nothing more than dead weight. Choose each one with care. Sometimes, for practicality, you must avoid the interesting little trail on your hike (book), and stick to the main path so the hike doesn't take too long. (You have to leave out a unique minor character or a brilliant subplot.)

Of course, you're also expected to make this distilled version of your story intriguing so somebody will want to read it!

And you'll be exhausted by the time you're finished with the effort.

Below you can see my nine-year-old daughters on a recent hike. You can't tell, but they were just complaining they were too tired to go on, when we crested a hill. They caught site of the old cemetery, which signaled we were on the last leg of the journey, and sprinted away toward it.


bard said...

Great pictures! Isn't it amazing how quickly fatigue and boredom can vanish when something new comes into our perspective?

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Thanks, Bard. :)
Yep. Amazing, and wonderful!

Palindrome said...

I will have the exact opposite problem with my finished piece. Sigh.

Thanks for sharing the pictures!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Opposite problem? I'll trade ya. LOL ;)

Glad you enjoyed the pics. :)

rama said...

It is indeed very frustrating when one has stick to certain amount of words, and have a gripping story. But when we start chopping we feel we lose the drama in it. It takes a lot of thought and planning to choose the right word, and yet get the right ideas across to the readers and keep them hooked to our story.
I have a husband who is very precise and yet interesting to grip people's attention.I am never able to write like him, and with such a talent in him he hardly writes.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Rama, good points. It sure does take extra planning to find the right words when we the word limit is small.

Sounds like your husband and mine are made from similar stuff. Mine is much better with words than I am, but he won't write a thing unless he must.

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