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BLOAT

July 11, 2018

In another recent article, I talked about word count. As one of my buds also pointed out, for a new author, another consideration a publisher has to figure in is cost. So, when you bring them an inflated manuscript, are they going to go along with it and add in the extra expense of your rambling?

Don’t think so, at least most of the time.

Rambling usually means bloat.

WHAT’S BLOAT?

Okay, I have to say right up front, I’m not talking from a literary viewpoint. In literary writing, it’s all about the words, the characters, the description, rather than the plot. Sure, there has to be a plot, but that’s secondary to the description of everything. Of course, the story still has to eventually get from A to B, but the movement is more casual. For you that are literary authors, your pitch and genres are clear so the agents know right off what to expect. On the other hand, there can still be bloat.

For plot-driven authors, where you’re expected to get to the point, it’s a lot easier to pick out bloat in the mix. It’s especially easy when you throw in a bit of literary that’s inconsistent with the normal pacing. However, that’s not the normal bloat I’m talking about.

Bloat is unnecessary info (outside of description). It’s side plots, stuff that veers away from the action. It’s anything that distracts from the main story.

PERSONAL EXAMPLES

I’ll give an example “torn from the pages” of an edit from one of my Gold novels.

My main character in the Gold series is Joseph “Detach” Datchuk. He goes by Detach. He’s a diver and searches for treasure. He gets into fixes where more than treasure is involved. In other words, mayhem ensues.

In one of them, I had a thread, inspired by someone I know. He stops at a fast-food place and tries to order a custom burger, but the kid behind the counter can’t get the order right. Once again, mayhem ensues. After about the third edit, I realized this “Chapter” had nothing to do with the plot – at all.” It was just something that displayed part of Detach’s character. Maybe in a literary sense it was “character building,” but as far as moving the story along, it did nothing at all but take up space.

I killed my darling.

Folks, that was a prime example of bloat.

In my most recent example, I’m now editing the sequel to Lusitania Gold.

In Spanish Gold, in what used to be the Prologue, which is now Chapter 1, set in the 1700’s, there’s a chase scene where one character reminisces about how he and his pursuer met, along with a bit about their background.

Taking a cue not only from the first page reads at our Las Vegas Writer’s Conferences, plus a certain writer who I like (but who loves 50 page prologues), I cut the new Chapter 1 down from fifteen to four pages. I deleted all that backstory and made it just the action.

In other words, I not only cut out the bloat, I vastly improved story movement.

I killed another unnecessary darling that’ll not have an impact on the rest of the story.

FOCUS IS KEY

My bud Deborah hit the nail on the head when she talked about cost. Not only that, but you have to consider the reader as well. The reader, unless they’re into literary prose, has to suffer through your indulgences to get to the point. The more you lose focus on your goal and indulge on your little side trips, the more the reader is going to wander away and the more it’s going to cost your publisher to print your ramblings. Not only that, but even if you’re a literary writer, your ramblings still have to be on point and not off on too wide of a tangent.

Like I’ve said many times before, write tight and right.

That isn’t just a saying. It’s a truism.

That’s one reason I’m not a big fan of most fantasy, even though I write it. When I see these five-hundred to a thousand page tomes, I just skip them and move on. It’s a big reason why I’m no fan of literary fiction. It’s why I’m no fan of certain popular writers who like to ramble (I’m currently reading one who may have broken his own rule…we’ll see…Coda: he did, and it was a great read).

The point is, most people don’t have time, and publishers don’t have the money to indulge in your ramblings and your bloat. They want you to get to the point. They want you to adequately, sufficiently, and maybe even colorfully describe, show, and bring forth your story without adding a bunch of extra baggage.

Happy writing!

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