Second editing pass though my next novel, I’ve got a new Post-It on the bottom of my monitor: three points to steer by as I hack, slash, and burn my way through the undergrowth.
1. Err on the side of the reader’s intelligence.
Aside from the fact my latest isn’t a YA novel, I’m writing to a capable, nuanced audience who, while new to my particular story, is familiar with the genre as well as Life’s genuine struggles and victories. I will not talk to them like they’re pets or three-year olds.
2. Don’t BS the reader.
See above. The reader has been gracious and given me of their time and money. I don’t want either to be a waste. Of course the story has themes and the author has opinions and values, but the reader can smell an agenda a mile off. There may be types or tropes that function as fiction shorthand, but they cannot devolve into cliches that cheapen or interrupt the story.
3. Less is more.
There’s a fine line (and a yawing chasm) between poetic and verbose. This is the ‘right word versus almost the right word’ dilemma. I will not fall in love with my prose and will cut what doesn’t best serve the scene, regardless of how clever the turn of phrase. I’m not padding my word count. Make it lean and precise, not bloated or boggy. Remember the Failure Mode of ‘Clever’ is ‘Asshole’.
Time to hone the machete, top off the flamethrower, and get back to work.
Have an excellent day.