Losing Weight: Ways to trim fat in a ms and on me.

I’m on a diet. I’ve simply gained too much weight for my legs, hips, and back to handle without complaining. Often, especially with a rough draft, the same could be said: “It’s carrying too much weight (“fat”).”scale

With both my writing and me the remedy is to trim the fat. For me it’s get rid of those extra calories; for my writing it’s get rid of those extra adverbs, adjectives, long descriptions, and any extraneous information.

Sure that key lime pie was delicious, and sure the research I did about explosives was fascinating, but do I really need either the pie on my hips or a long, detailed description about explosives in my book?

We all have to make decision. Some are about what we eat (put in our bodies), and some decisions (for writers) are about what to put in our stories. The more you learn about the craft, the more likely you’ll find stronger verbs to replace adverbs, different nouns to limit adjectives, and a keener eye regarding what’s needed for the story and what can be trimmed. But all of us have our weaknesses. That delicious banana split or that wonderful scene describing the sunset over Lake Michigan. And sometimes it’s all right to indulge, to enjoy the foods we love and include a scene that expresses the beautiful of the setting or everything you learned about boats and explosives. It’s when you over indulge—eat too many calorie laden foods or include too much extraneous information—that’s when the body and the ms get into trouble.

Most diet plans advocate choosing foods that lead to good health; we’re told that our diets should include lean protein, lots of fruits and vegetables, a modest amount of carbohydrates, and a small amount of good fats. The same should be true for our writing. Lean and clean should be the writers motto. A little bit of material that’s not directly related to the story might be all right, but not a lot. I know how easy it is to lose sight of the story when a secondary character grabs your heart, but just as I must be wary of that slice of chocolate cake trying to entice me, as a writer I must be wary of anything in the story that might take the reader in a direction I don’t really want her/him to go.

I do like to add a little of what I’d call the good fats. It will show up in a scene or in some information the reader might not realize is actually important to the story; that is, not until later. When that happens, I feel I’ve scored a win. Actually, I want my readers to trust that everything I’ve added, even if at the moment it doesn’t seem important, will play a part in the story, that I didn’t simply add it to pump up the word count.

I just need to remember to do that with my diet; i.e., make sure everything I add is important.

So far I’ve lost 4 1/2 pounds. I’ll let you know how I’m doing as the weeks go by.


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13 Responses to Losing Weight: Ways to trim fat in a ms and on me.

  1. Celebrating the season and celebrating new fields of research often clog up otherwise fine systems. The University of Michigan’s Zoology Museum is the setting of the novel I’m writing now: many rooms, many ways to wreak havoc, and hiding places galore. As to the dual subject, I’m into vests to hide the added lumps maturing on my figure. Eating a whole lot less is about as tempting as adding another day of exercise. We share the bounty, don’t we?

  2. Very spot on comparison, Maris. I’m never at a loss for words, but as hard as I find it to cut those precious words, it’s harder still to cut back on the chips or ice cream. When we spend so much time sitting in front of the computer, adding in exercise and cutting the fat become imperative for a long writing life. Good luck with eating more wisely.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Marsha, you’re 100% right about the sitting in front of a computer contributing to the weight gain. I heard it’s common to gain 5 pounds for ever book you write. I haven’t quite gained that much, but I certainly have been trying. Now I just have to try to lose it…and still write the books.

  3. A great comparison, Maris. I’m trimming my current WIP right now–or would be if I weren’t reading your blog.

    Now if only I could do something about those potato chips I love so much.

  4. 5 pounds a book? Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not more productive!
    I’ve been reading research lately that really stresses food reduction – as opposed to exercise -as the key to weight loss. So don’t sweat it (ha!) if you’re not quite where you want to be, exercise-wise.
    Re’ the first draft: I love dialogue. I often have to go through and add description.

    • Maris Soule says:

      I’m like you, Holli. My first draft always has way more dialogue than description. My main problem comes when I have my characters apart and want to describe a setting or when I want to convey information through dialogue. That’s where I need to be careful. Same holds true with the food. It’s okay to have some of the good stuff. I just have to watch the quantity.

  5. Lucy Kubash says:

    Trimming words and calories; neither one is fun but sounds like you’re off to a good start. Wishing you luck in both endeavors.

  6. Wonderful comparison, Maris! I, too, am trimming the fat from my body and writing! Eating healthier, cutting those calories, bought a gym membership because I really do enjoy working out, and am looking forward to a productive year of writing! Congrats on the 4.5 pounds! That’s a great start! Keep up the good work in writing and calories, it’ll pay off 🙂

    • Maris Soule says:

      My problem, Jennifer, is getting myself away from the computer to exercise. Thank goodness for my dog. He gives me no choice. When he says he needs to go for a walk, we go for a walk.

  7. Judy Dailey says:

    I enjoyed your post, Maris. Dieting/Writing–both involve days of slogging followed (at last!) by a payoff. Hard to keep on slogging. You’ve given us some good reasons to keep going.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Judy, it was wonderful meeting you at the Love is Murder Conference in Chicago. Here’s to a successful launch of your Five Star book. Now that the conference is over, I need to get back on my diet and back to working on the third book in my “Crows” series.