Coloring and Counting
Remember how I went on that epic trip and learned all that stuff? I’ve been applying it this week on my third draft. I spent a long time on the prologue, writing it from two different point of view characters. Then I gave up on that and moved on to the first chapter. I rewrote, revised, and added. Then I color coded sections, looking for kinetic, audio, and visual parts. It was informative!
I did not realize that as I write a scene, I start dropping the visual details as I approach the end and get more and more excited. The highlighting colors are very even at the beginning and then the blue for visual drops off entirely with a few hundred words remaining.
This is where all that reading comes in handy – I realized that’s how I read books too! I’m sure the author has visual details sprinkled everywhere, but if I am excited about the characters and what they’re doing I stop reading all the explanation of what it looks like. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all standing in this ten-foot circle right in front of me.
I’ll be reading along, enjoying the scenery, pondering the worldbuilding, and placing each character in their proper spot. Maybe there will be a conversation that reveals more details. Then something interesting will happen; perhaps a battle. And I’ll start off with the same enjoyment of more information, but it quickly descends to chaos, and I skim over everything not related to if my favorite character is going to die. Or is someone else going to die? Will they do the right thing? What will happen? I MUST KNOW.
When I write, this shouldn’t happen as I already know how it will end. I know what happens to the characters all throughout the book and after the last page ends. There shouldn’t be any surprise I need to rush to when writing, yet I tend to focus only on the kinetic as the scene ramps up. I’ll add audio, but only if someone is speaking.
What to do? Color code. I wasn’t sure I’d highlight each scene this way, but now I realize I need to to see where I’ve failed to describe what’s happening.
Here’s more about Appealing to the Senses by David Farland. I suspect he doesn’t need to color code anymore.
As a new writer, I have been inundated with people, web pages, and even software telling me the “rules” of writing. Recently I had the experience of a group of writers telling another writer to take out most of the things I found compelling in her story because of rules. I thought I’d do a little study on two of t.
“Don’t end anything with an -ly.” Slowly. Quickly. Happily. These are all apparently, er… These are all bad. There are better ways to write whatever sentence has prompted you to bust out these terrible words.
“Don’t end anything with an -ing.” Walking. Talking. Eating. Loving. Existing. Again, there are more powerful ways we can write a sentence. All the time.
Should I retitle this entry as “Colored and Counted.” No, that has a totally different meaning, doesn’t it? What about “Color and Count?”
I have six books from the library and two books I own on my desk. All of them are by bestselling authors. Most are fantasy but one is just a standard political thriller. One is YA. They come from different years. I opened each and counted how many “-ly” and “-ing” words occur on just the first page of each. On average, these published and high performing books contain 2.14 “-ly” words and 8.71 “ing” words. On the first page! That isn’t even a full page of words.
It seems these words aren’t quite as terrible as I’ve been told. Writing “rules” aren’t like speed limit signs. There’s no police officer around the bend to pull you over if you swing around them every once in awhile. I think it must be wise to look at words with these endings and see if there is a way to write the sentence in a way that makes it stronger, but if not, leave it and move on. But what do I know – I’m not a published writer. Maybe I need to add more “-ing” words to my first page.