Tag Archives: clutter

Clutter in my Home, Website, and Writing

I’ve started a campaign to clean out the clutter in my house. Today I mopped floors, changed kitchen curtains, and filed away the atomic piles in my office. In case you’re wondering what “atomic piles” means, I’m referring to the growing piles of folders and NTD material on the floor surrounding my office chair. I’m ditching some of the empty boxes I’ve got as well. You’d be surprised how fast they accumulate if you shop online. I began the job with a balloon acquisition, of course. I never undertake a difficult task without fortifying myself with a balloon.

I’ve attacked my website, about 3 pages/posts a day. Why the website? Well, gremlins crawled into some of the pages, interjecting weird-looking symbols when I upgraded the WordPress software. Also, I had a learning experience about WordPress.org. When you upload photos to the Media Library to use on your pages, you’ve got to keep them forever. If you delete them, as I found out, the respective images will disappear off your pages and posts. That’s what I did, thinking I could conserve memory. Some of the people I interviewed changed publishers, so the images I have are obsolete. Also WordPress provides a thing called SEO, but you gotta type in your key words, summary and title with every blog post and page you do. So I’ll ‘fess up. I’d gotten lazy about doing that, so now I’m playing catch-up SEO installations.

Finally, my writing. While the floors dry and my website digests the changes I’ve made, I spent the next few hours going through Blood Moon Rising, the sequel to Steel Rose. I found a lot of padding where words are concerned, so I’m tightening up the story. I’ve caught little inconsistencies which I’m fixing now. I’m missing an entire scene around Chapter 26, so I typed in “Chapter 26” and left a note, “insert a scene with Laurel and Woehar plotting here.” Yep, you’ve got it. Both women are up to no good, and our heroine Alexis is about to get the short end of the stick. I’ve stuck other notes in red here and there, to be addressed after I’ve gone through the whole story. I dread facing the ending; I struggled with it the first draft out. Steel Rose was meant to be a two-part serial, which means Needing A Satisfying Ending. Endings are tough. Coming up with a workable ending for “One Last Favor” (City of Brotherly Death) was a nightmare.

Okay, I’ll have some whine with my cheese, preferably Provolone because I love Italian cheeses. A purebred Italian, Alexis loves Provolone and homemade pastas. Alas, out in Zombie Land, shops that specialize in ethnic food don’t exist. She counts herself lucky to get canned spaghetti.

But here I digress. I’m focusing on cleaning up the clutter, the extraneous sentences and information dumps in my story, and facing the ending when it comes. Do you find yourself struggling with clutter in your WIP? I’d love to hear how you handle the revision process.

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When Your Tales Contain Too Much Clutter

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Yesterday, I learned about the evils of clutter when I purchased an outdoor trashcan and attempted to load it into my Honda Fit. It looked so easy. Folding down the back seats would give plenty of room for my purchase, but so much stuff had congregated in the back seats and floor. Bending the trashcan wasn’t an option; I had to move all my stuff into the front seat. A Christopher Columbus expedition followed where I discovered books, throw rugs, pillows, magazines, tools, bags of old clothes, and more. All up, it took ½ hour to clear enough space for the trashcan.

Then I got to thinking about the clutter in my stories and the way I try to jam my characters so that they’ll fit into the clutter, and then wonder why the story doesn’t make sense. In any novel, you have your central plot, with the subplots revolving around it. Let’s say a vampire flees his land and attempts to live among humans until his enemy catches up with him. Then you add subplots - perhaps the vampire falls in love with his neighbor, then he gets a night job, perhaps his enemy tries to steal his girlfriend. The clutter starts if you throw in werewolves, aliens, and a plethora of “walk-on” characters without duly preparing the reader for them. And whatever goes down, your character has to act true to his role. You can’t have someone with a phobia of heights climb the side of a building unless you’ve motivated and prepared him to do this way in advance. If your character prays in a monastery on one page, and then on the next, he commits a mass murder, you’ll lose your reader unless you’ve set up the story in a way that your reader might expect this.

At the last writer’s conference, a workshop leader gave me wise advice. Don’t just write a resume for your character. Take your character out to dinner. Watch TV with him at home. Bring him to work and family functions. Observe in your mind how he might interact with family members, what foods he might like, etc. Then let him tell you the story. This will help you avoid extraneous scenes that clutter your story, and the reader will keep turning the pages.

With the lessons at the conference and shopping trip in mind, I’m cleaning out the clutter from my present work in progress, and scolding myself in the process. That is my biggest challenge - the mess! It will take longer than ½ hour to clear it, but clear it I will.

What do you find most challenging about rewrites? Does clutter creep into your tales? How do you address it?

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