In the last year, I’ve read at least a dozen books on “how-to-write a novel.” I gobbled most of them, even though there were bits of advice I didn’t understand. Gradually, as I’ve gained more experience writing this book, some of those bits have begun to make sense to me.
One of the bits was about “cutting the flab.” Huh? Some of my sentences seem, perhaps, boring, but flabby? If I just concentrated on making the book as concise as possible I guess I could tell the story in a paragraph or two! I come from a background as an academic, writing research results. I think I’m pretty good at shortening to the maximum but that won’t result in a novel.
Then, a few days ago, I had an epiphany about flab. I was reading about “filter words,” which authors use and that unintentionally put distance between the reader and the action of the book. The examples of potential filter words given were many, but I started with the word “thought.” As in, “He thought that Madam just didn’t understand.” Try it as this: ”Madam just didn’t understand.” It’s more active. Using the “find” feature I came up with 70 or 80 instances of using “thought” and about half of those were pure flab. I fixed them. I did the same with some other words. I ended up cutting about 400 words from my book. It’s a little bit tighter now (a correlate of the flab concept). It’s a little bit better.