Editing: The boilerplate, the bold.

A first-time author once called some of my writing advice “boilerplate” which she could find “on any writing website.”

I can find the lyrics to “A House is Not a Home” on the web, but it doesn’t mean I can sing it well.

My critique of her introduction — that ten pages is too long, even for historical fiction — caused the season of her discontent. I get it: constructive criticism of your book is like getting a call from your child’s teacher. “Little Brian is a problem child. He could use some after-school tutoring at .012 cents per word.”

I told her to cut the froth: very, quite, feel, and a few other words we authors tend to think are important but really aren’t at all. Cramming the introduction of three to five characters into one scene was too much. Imagine a party where you meet five people in the span of ten minutes. Who do you care about and why? What if they leave the party shortly after meeting you?

If you’re feeling particularly wordy, give my “rule of thirty percent” a shot. What’s the rule of thirty? Do a word count on a particular section and cut it by thirty percent. You think to yourself “Brian, I can’t do that. (Enter scene/character/dialogue) is too important to cut.”

Be bold and try it. Reword your sentences to shorten them. Tighten your dialogue to show what the characters are thinking or doing rather than telling your reader what to think. Stop explaining everything and let your characters act it out.  FYI: Your prologue shouldn’t be longer than 3-5 pages. If it is, it should be a chapter, not a prologue. Hope this helps.

Brian Thompson’s passion is motivating and encouraging others to write and to pursue Do-It-Yourself publishing. He is also author of acclaimed Christian fiction thrillers The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate. You can read more about Brian by visiting his author site.

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