John Krissilas / Writer, Thinker, Storyteller
About151 Published workStarboardArchive
Twitter

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Revision: Getting Rid of the "Purple"

Source: http://www.photl.com/347483.html

Revisions suck. Forgive my bluntness, but they do, they really do. After all, you've poured your heart and soul into writing, editing, and cleaning up your long-overdue manuscript, and you now find yourself surrounded by pages (and a laptop keyboard) covered in blood, sweat, and cookie crumbs. That 350 page stack is as good as it's gonna get right? Wrong…

It's revision time. And although the process can indeed feel like the epitome of sucky-ness, it can also be the process that sharpens your manuscript into a razor-edged blade of spectacular literary goodness. After some distance from your writing, and some commentary and feedback from Beta and critique readers, you'll be ready to return to your work with fresh eyes and new inspiration. Not to hack and slash and turn your manuscript into confetti, but to polish, tweak, and nudge your text into the realm of awesome.

As a wise Beta reader and self-proclaimed "Critique Critter" once said, you need to get rid of the "purple". Purple is the nasty stuff, the excess words, sentences, and descriptions that can bog down a manuscript and take away from the reader's enjoyment of your story. It usually infects your manuscript very early on—it's there in your first, second, and maybe even third drafts. Purple's also great at hiding. It can be very difficult for even the sharpest eyes to find it—especially if those same eyes wrote it in the first place. I find that if I don't print my work out and read my text very carefully, the purple always finds a way of surviving.

Purple can include:
  • redundant words, descriptions, and "author-driven" explanations
  • using a word or adjective as a shortcut (or a "poetic generalization") instead of describing what's actually happening in a scene
  • too many commonly-used writing devices
  • too many dialogue tags
  • repeating adjectives, verbs, or phrases
  • too many passive sentences
  • run-on sentences!

And the list goes on. I know what you're thinking: that's a lot of purple!! Yes, yes it is. And when it comes to self-editing, it takes the sharpest of eyes to eradicate all purple from a 90,000 word manuscript. It can be a brutal, time-consuming experience. But hey—so was writing the damn thing, right?


Here's an example of a paragraph from 151… see if you can spot the purple:

Casseopea glanced at the reflection of the tall elegant woman standing in her doorway, waiting for her to get ready. Her mother, Cassandra, trained her silver eyes on her through the mirror, impatience dwelling on her face.

“Hurry up, Cass. We’ll be late for the ceremony.”


Spotted it? Here's the purple, in bold:

Casseopea glanced at the reflection of the tall elegant woman standing in her doorway, waiting for her to get ready. Her mother, Cassandra, trained her silver eyes on her through the mirror, impatience dwelling on her face.

“Hurry up, Cass. We’ll be late for the ceremony.”

Purple:
  • tall elegant — This seemed like a bit too much description to include right off the bat, since all I really wanted you to know was that there was a woman standing in her doorway. You'll know in a few moments, anyhow, that Cassandra is tall and elegant, so there's no need to say this now.
  • waiting for her to get ready — This "author-driven" explanation is a bit redundant, especially once you read the line of dialogue that comes right after. Someone saying "hurry up" and "we'll be late" already implies that that person is waiting. ZAP!
  • impatience dwelling on her face — This is one of those poetic generalizations. Although it sounded great on paper, I'm not really sure if anyone can actually picture what dwelling impatience actually looks like on someone's face. I should have just said what was happening on her face. But since the line of dialogue already implies that she's getting impatient anyways, I decided to just cut this altogether.


Here is the same paragraph, sans-purple:

Casseopea glanced at the reflection of the woman standing in her doorway. Her mother, Cassandra, trained her silver eyes on her through the mirror.

“Hurry up, Cass. We’ll be late for the ceremony.”


Better?? I think so. It looks much cleaner, reads much smoother, and helps the reader stay in the story without getting distracted or annoyed. And yes, it really is a tough slog to zap all the purple from your manuscript, but it will also be a huge relief when it's finally done. Your agent, editor, and most importantly, your readers, will thank you for it!

Do you have an example of "purple" that you try extra hard to zap from your work?