to make a long story short...

I obviously haven’t been in blog-land much lately. I’ve been editing my WIP and frankly, if I follow much more of the (good) writing advice/models I’ve been reading lately, there won’t be much of the damn thing left for anyone else to read.

Hint Fiction (props to Merrilee Faber for the heads-up on this book, featuring one of her stories) arrived in the same Amazon shipment as Elizabeth George’s book on writing, which I promptly discarded in favor of this little gem. The book design and layout rock along with the content.

According to editor Robert Swartwood, hint fiction is built on the idea that “the very best storytelling was the kind where the writer and reader meet halfway, the writer only painting fifty percent of the picture and forcing the reader to fill in the rest. That way, the reader truly becomes engaged in the process.”

Each of the 125 Hint Fiction stories has, at most, 25 words. A lot of the stories are dark, and the best ones are very dark. I don’t know if that’s an artifact of the form itself or of the editor’s taste. But each one tells a full story and draws the reader in, sometimes farther than I wanted to go. There’s way more emotional depth than I thought possible with so few words.

Hint Fiction is a must-read if you want to see how some writers make every word count. Phew.

So I hit my manuscript with a red pen and started deleting those excess words.

Then, I read Every Word Matters on David Kazzie’s blog, The Corner. Basically he reminds you that every word matters, only he uses a couple more words than that and an example from the movie version of No Country for Old Men. David is the mastermind behind the So You Want to Write a Novel/So You Want to Go to Law School videos and he’s a pretty funny writer.

So I hit my manuscript again with a red pen and started deleting some more of those words that don’t matter.

And then I discovered Austin Kleon, author of Newspaper Blackout. He writes poems by starting with a newspaper and blacking out the words he doesn’t need with magic marker.

His blog post How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me) is awesomely brilliant, so you should read it. I can’t pick a favorite part, so I’ll just go with the tenth thing that nobody told him:

10. Creativity is subtraction.

It’s often what an artist chooses to leave out that makes the art interesting. What isn’t shown vs. what is… Creativity isn’t just the things we chose to put in, it’s also the things we chose to leave out.

So I’m hitting my manuscript again, maybe with a black marker this time.

If there’s anything left.

13 comments to to make a long story short…

  • DS

    It was about three weeks ago when I first saw Austin Kleon’s work. After reading a few of his poems I pined for a daily newspaper delivery. I even considered using some of the books I had set aside to go to Goodwill,(that pile of — I’ll never read this trash again — that is stacked in the corner)to try making a few subtractive poems of my own.

    I have yet to ordr Hint Fiction. I had been waiting for the release of Linda’s book to place my next order. Now that it is out, I plan to place an order that includes hers and Cathryn’s. Maybe I’ll throw Hint Fiction in the order as well.

  • I submitted an entry for Hint Fiction. It was rejected. Maybe I’d have better luck with poetry by blackout. I’ll keep this blog post in mind when I edit my next novel. First I have to write it. (I’m resisting the urge to open Brevity right now.)

    • Natasha

      I’m so out of it on some things. I’d never heard of Hint Fiction until Merrilee blogged about it and she was holding onto her own copy of it.

      I’m gonna grab an old Wall Street Journal now and see what kind of poetry I can make with it.

  • Your posts make me laugh out loud. Be sure not to red-line or black-block the funny parts in your novel 😉

    I never understood much about hint fiction, but you’ve whet my appetite, and great reminder for being careful with words. I’m off to read “How to steal like an artist…”

  • “How to steal like an artist …” Wow. That is awesome. It made my day, my week, probably my month.

    • Natasha

      I know. I think every part of it is brilliant. Plus, the guy really wants to SHARE stuff – he’s got a video on how to do it. I need to get my marker out and start playing.

      • There were so many things in there, I want to tape the whole post to my wall. It was encouraging to read about working in a day job, and work expanding to fill the hours, since I struggle with that ALL the time. (as you know, since I go on about it ALL the time)

        • Natasha

          Nature – and the workplace – abhor a vacuum. And I agree about wanting to have the whole post in plain view all the time.

  • I feel for you as you attempt to apply all those good suggestions to your WIP. I’m so proud of you for working so hard to get “it” right. I wish you the best as you continue on.

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