…contributing Blogger pal, Author Tony McManus has an excellent piece on WURD ‘padding’…

…ever had that feeling that an Author has decided, ‘why use only one WURD when two dozen will do?’... my pal, Author, Tony McManus uses just enough to tell yeez how to avoid it in yer own scribbling…

tony 

PADDING IT OUT

WORD INFLATION IN FICTION

 Ever picked up a novel, read it and come to the conclusion that it was not much of a deal, far too long, overblown and containing little meat? I’ve done it often, and no doubt will endure it again. I’ve read more than a few short stories that have been padded out and published as novellas or even full-house, novels. Maybe I possess what Hemingway called a “built-in shit detector” as I can sense this padding instinctively. It’s become a quirk that irritates me.

I recently read, on Kindle, a novella in the crime-thriller genre. Though competently written, it was packed with unnecessary scenes, vivid scenery descriptions, subplots, dinner table dialog, and comments on the dishes being served. A good, serious, editor would have cut this excess baggage out and reduced it to the short story that it truly was.

Is this inflation done by accident or design? I’d say both, but most often by accident. I’m sure many writers simply get carried away by their brilliance and feel they just have to put all this stuff in; they love it so why won’t the reader? I feel it in myself; the urge to write descriptive verbiage that reads great, but doesn’t advance the story one jot and even clogs things up. It’s a content editor’s job to bring us back down to earth. But what if we like it up there and don’t want to come down? In this time of digital self-publishing this is a problem, right? We can just go ahead and publish. I believe this is why padding is more prevalent today among indie writers than under the old regime.

Many indie writers in this age of Kindle, reject editors seeing them as representing the bad old days of publishing house dictatorship, intruders intent on destroying the purity of their ideas and narrative flow. Why pay someone to criticize, cut your work to ribbons and make your story theirs? And where a publishing house would exercise control over this foolishness and employ their in-house editors, today such writers are free to refuse all editorial restraint and publish.

One of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Good Writing is: “Try to leave out the parts readers tend to skip.” A fine piece of advice I find. And with it in mind, I try to apply strict self-discipline. In the novel, I’m writing I had a description of how my protagonist, Mike met his Thai wife, Soraya, at the Ambassador’s Inauguration Ball in the US Embassy in Bangkok. A dramatic piece that read well, I polished it and made it better. Then, I remembered Leonard’s admonishment and reluctantly cut it out. It hurt, but as it didn’t advance the story, it was deleted. Who cares that Mike met Soraya dancing to Strauss?

It’s important for writers to recognize who they are and what they are capable of. And a writer who knows his limitations holds a powerful asset. Few writers could seriously take on a War and Peace. It took a genius to produce David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol; but, like Tolstoy, Dickens was a genius. Such writers are thin on the ground.

Apart from the ability to write well and tell a story, a fiction writer should have a good imagination. He should be able to weigh a story idea for what it’s worth. What might make a terrific short story may turn out a poor novel that requires padding to make the weight. But it won’t punch its weight.

My short story, Ray, created a minor sensation when I published it on a Thailand website. I got emails suggesting I expand it into a novel. I thought seriously about it. I could do it, but it wouldn’t be Ray anymore, and so I rejected the idea. Ray is a short story, and it’s going to stay that way.

Some writers seem destined for short stories. Jack London, always a favorite author of mine, was one. Jack, whose own life story reads like a Norse Saga, was a great writer yet he never wrote a great novel. He did write a great novella: The Call of the Wild a literary triumph that’s never out of print and been filmed many times. However, it’s for his superb short stories, tales of the Yukon Gold Rush and the South Pacific Islands; that he is honored. His short piece: To Build a Fire has been voted the best short story of all time. But try to find his novels.

The indie revolution that ended the injustices of the old publishing house dictatorship has no stronger champion than me. I’m grateful for the big break it gave me. But has not the pendulum swung over too far? For it too has a downside we should recognize and face up to; it’s totally undisciplined. Now anyone can publish anything. And they do.

Meet Priscilla Anne Case, a sweet, gentle single girl, 22 years old, working on the Costco checkout line in Laramie, Wyoming. She left school at fifteen and has never traveled east of the Mississippi River. She loves the television soaps, Facebook chat, and her smartphone. She’s never written anything above an email. But she’s about to write a romantic, paranormal saga, replete with vampires and neo-Nazi white supremacists, in the form of a two thousand word, bodice ripping, trilogy. She’ll write it in six months and self-publish it, free of editorial interference, on Amazon. She may even publish each book as a four part boxed set. Go for it, girl, there’s nothing to stop you.

An adage has it that if you take one hundred thousand chimpanzees, give each an easel, canvas and a pallet of paints, in a year you’ll get a Rembrandt. In the indie world it seems we’re still waiting for our literary Rembrandts. But wait, hold on. I’m convinced they’re there. Look hard and you’ll find them; beautiful, superbly written books in all genres, waiting like buried treasure, hidden beneath the surface of that sad sea of bloated mediocrity that is Amazon’s slush pile.

 

 

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa, construction work in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. Tony pursues and advocates good health, via diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, kayaker and canoeist, he also loves hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

He is the author of an espionage novel: The Iran Deception based on his time in Israel. He recently published: Down And Out In The Big Mango, a collection of short stories set in Thailand. He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada.

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter

Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

Tony is the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

He has published several short stories:

Ray: http://amzn.to/1Ge6jq9

A Bangkok Solution: http://amzn.to/1A8LCuy

A Partner in Crime: http://amzn.to/1ENZpn2

The Bangkok SAS: http://amzn.to/1d5cVMb

He is presently working on two crime novels: A Bangkok Interlude, the first book in a series featuring sleuth Mike Villiers.

And The Company of Men, the first book in a series featuring ex SAS hero, James Fallon.

He expects both novels to see publication before the year’s end.

…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

 

5 Comments

Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

5 responses to “…contributing Blogger pal, Author Tony McManus has an excellent piece on WURD ‘padding’…

  1. Pingback: …contributing Blogger pal, Author Tony McManus has an excellent piece on WURD ‘padding’… | tonymcmanus

  2. My son recently read a piece of flash fiction I wrote and sent some advice. He thought I explained too much. He reads a lot and was a comic book collector. He said there’s a term among those writers and readers called “blood in the gutters.” It refers to the way a comic reader fills in the missing action between panel breaks, called “gutters”, with their own imagination. He said that it’s where the magic happens. We should give readers “breathing room”, and trust them to understand what we’re doing.
    I emailed back and told him he was perfectly right. I had failed to revise that piece enough. I think that explains a lot. I also told him he should start writing again. 🙂

    Like

  3. I absolutely agree with what Tony says. I try not to do it when I write. And yet, people give conflicting advice. I gave a hard copy of the first novel I wrote to our local librarian to read, who also happened to have been an English teacher. When she give it back, she said, ‘Hm, you just tell the story and that’s that. Couldn’t you pad it out a bit more? But I agree it’s certainly a page-turner.’ Well, try as I might, I can’t pad it out. Every ‘scene’ I write in the book has a purpose in moving the story on a bit further. I once got told I should pay more attention to detail, I.e. if a character has a cigarette, he gets it out of his pocket, he has a lighter/lights a match, shields it from the draft…etc. I don’t see the point, only to fill with words. Isn’t it good enough just to say’ he lit his cigarette’? Tony is right, when I read, I miss bits out or I just scan read when I see big chunks of narrative when nothing is really happening. I try to do the same when I write. I tell the story and that’s that.
    Thanks for putting this up Seumas; I’m learning stuff every day through you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, Jeanette. I feel that some editors will advise a writer to add unnecessary content just to fill out a manuscript. A book’s length will find itself if the writer is honest and writes clean. A writer should not set out by saying: “I’m going to write a novella.” Or: “I’m going to write a trilogy.” Write the story honestly, following the critical path to conclusion and the book will be as long as it needs to be. Make every word count like Shakespeare did.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s