Whittle It

Seven chapters, 40,600 words into the Great American Southern Novel, I stopped, went back to the prologue, and read forward, whittling, checking the flow, the dialog, making certain facts and dates agreed, as I’d made changes along the way. Chapter 7 is an important one because it brings all the characters (except 2–for a reason) together in one location to interact.

Now as I move forward laying the words down, I am remembering a conversation with a publisher I met during the Southern Festival of Books. He stopped by my booth promoting the fact that his company, located in downtown Nashville, publishes Southern fiction; since I was promoting an organization supporting [Southern] writers, he thought I might direct some his way. His company, an award-winning, independent publisher of specialty and trade titles, with six imprints, has produced over 1,000 titles since 1984.

“What are you looking for?” I said. He launched into a 15-minute explanation of what he looks for in “good writing.” I can sum it up in 3 points. He’s interested in 1) the writing and the story. A good story that moves, a conversational tone, not a lot of description. He wants 2) quick movement out of the first page. He also wants it 3) tight and whittled down.

Now if I could just keep my internal editor at bay and move the story and string the words along without worrying about whittling it!

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