Category Archives: Writing Technique

The Black Hole Theory

Where only meaning exists.

Where only meaning exists.

Can you imagine existing in a black hole, in such denseness that light can’t escape?

A well written thought strikes me as similar: The idea is presented in such conciseness that nothing exists but its meaning. Confusion, vagueness and misinterpretation are crushed in the strength of the presentation, conveying reality alone.

It’s a neat metaphor, one that I contemplate often when I write.

A black hole pulls in matter to never allow it to escape.

A well written thought pulls in the reader to never allow him or her to escape.

A well written book is a galaxy of black holes, where the only escape is to finish every thought.

Write with the attraction of a black hole and watch your readership expand and not contract.

Shoop!

Bang!

Title Anyone?

What's in a title other than letters?

What’s in a title other than letters?

Some people say creating a book title is hard work. I say it depends on the writer’s method.

Many writers slave over a book outline, describing every character, every chapter, and often every scene. Thus a title for them is likely tedious.

For me, the book finds its title when its concept is well grounded. Of course, a title should use certain elements, like tone, expectation and interest. But breaking the brain over what works best isn’t my idea of fun. Here’s an example: Salem Street.

But what does Salem Street say? Does it suggest a thriller, science-fiction or a romance? Maybe Salem Street is a romance, because it sounds homey and inviting.

Perhaps the writer intends a story with lots of conflict between rivaling housewives, creating the title Salem Street Witches. Here intrigue suggests witch trials, brutal judgment and burnings at the stake.

Next I offer something quirky like A Knuckle for Your Thoughts. Here we have a play on words, mimicking “A nickel for your thoughts”. In this title, the word knuckle describes the story. Maybe it refers to a man who finds boxing more appealing than running his father’s business.

What’s essential is that a title must describe the book. To me, this is important, because a misleading title is counterproductive. That’s why I create a title first, imagine the plot, outline if necessary and begin to write. Then I use it to stay focused.

Would Sweet Little Kittens describe a story about two orphaned brothers named Black who bounty hunt? Probably not. Is Clan of Black more appropriate? Probably. Point is, whether you write first and create a title, or create a title and then write, the title must serve as the backbone of the story.

With this said, a new title has suddenly popped into my head: Say No More.

No Leaks Allowed

Perfect plane. No leak anywhere.

Perfect plane. No leak anywhere.

A perfect sentence and a perfect golf swing are similar — no leaks allowed.

Here’s what I mean:

A perfect golf swing requires smooth motion, precise angles, solid impact and a liquid follow-through.

A perfect sentence is smooth, precise, solid and imparts concise understanding.

What is a faulty golf swing?

A faulty golf swing displays awkward motion, imprecise angles, off-center impact, resulting in defective ball flight and reduced distance.

A faulty sentence reads awkward, imprecise, missing its point, resulting in wrong meaning and poor understanding.

A perfect golf swing is perfect.

A perfect sentence is perfect.

Learn how to write like a professional golfer swings and your sentences will stay on point and accurate.

 

Time to Breakout the Chainsaw

And make sure the tank is full.

And make sure the tank is full.

 

As you likely know by now, I am currently editing a book I wrote in 2006 titled Heller’s Canal. Before going further, certain details are necessary to relate:

The first draft of the book came to 100,243 words.

The length of a mass market Western is generally 45,000 to 70,000 words.

Now, if the book read tight and fast, the original length would be acceptable if the plot supported it. However, the book isn’t an epic Western; it isn’t multi-generational and doesn’t cover decades or even years. It’s a snapshot of Sam Claiborne’s summer spent in the new farming town of Littleton, Colorado Territory, where he faced the challenge of discovering what caused the South Platte River to run dry.

It’s obvious then that the book is too long and needs some serious hacking. Thus, out came the chainsaw.

(Flash forward five weeks to June 18.)

Today, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve sawn off 17,298 words or 17% of the original length. Now the book races rather than plods. No longer do excesses muddy the story. The useless factor nears zero. And the story’s credibility has increased by several orders of magnitude.

Only drawback has been the amount of gas burned. Further, the job has taken many hours, the slaying of many darlings and the replacing of several chains.

Today, I’m saddened to announce that the last one-quarter of the book is running for its life, but I’m determined to catch-up and cut every excess word, restatement, overstatement, silly analogy, witless idea, et al.

My aim is to store my chainsaw by the end of the month. Then I will self-publish and hope to sell some copies to pay my Shell credit card.

More later when I’m finished with the mutilation.