In cooking, reduction is the process of thickening and intensifying the flavor of a liquid mixture such as a soup, sauce, wine, or juice by simmering or boiling. The more I write, the more I believe something analogous to reduction takes place as I self-edit and re-write (and re-write) a manuscript.
True Confession #1: thus far I have completed three novels. Five years ago I self-published one of them and DELETED another after finishing it. I just re-worked the first book from the ground up and am on the verge of reconstructing the third in similar fashion. Sounds like a sure-fire recipe for success, doesn’t it?
People with a lot more experience than me in the craft of writing will tell you that preparing a story for the one shot it might have at attracting a literary agent’s attention requires paring it down – put another way, a process of reduction. The economy of words and the vocabulary employed by the author play a fundamental role in grabbing the reader’s attention, engaging her/him with the plot from Page One. (Imagine a small terrier that, having sunk its teeth into your ankle, refuses to let go. It is like that, but without the irksome blood and tooth marks.)
True Confession #2: I really, really enjoy the reduction process. It forces me to consider how I can use one word to communicate what is going on instead two or more of them. It encourages me to choose words that lend color and life to my story, even as it carries it forward. Not only that, it is invaluable when it comes to composing the Dreaded One-Page Synopsis required by the seeming majority of agents. Same goes for the final reduction to the “Elevator Talk,” wherein the major characters and plot are crammed into something that can be conveyed convincingly in around ONE MINUTE.
More about this writing stuff in future posts . . .
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Novelist Warren Murphy left us with an online how-to guide to writing novels. Well worth a read, link below. In keeping with this blog’s central idea, Murphy says: “Write a one-sentence outline of the story of your novel-in-progress…. So you might ask, why one sentence? Fair enough. Because until you can write one sentence, you don’t know what your book is about. If you don’t know what it’s about, you can’t write it. Period. Case closed. I can’t help you.” – http://warrenmurphy.com/writing-class/