Making my product perfect

58660-dr-seuss-charactersIn Joe Bunting’s “The Write Practice” piece, The Ten Lessons Dr. Seuss Can Teach Writers, dated February 27, 2015, I resonated with these two lessons:

6. Be a Perfectionist:

It took Dr. Seuss nine months to finish The Cat in the Hat, a book that only contains 236 unique words. He would often spend as much as a year finishing just one book. And these were not long books! Each sentence, each word is important. Don’t rush. Keeping molding your writing until it’s just right. (Share that on Twitter?)

7. Cut Your Book Down to Its Essence:

Longer is not better. Cut your book down to its essence. #SeussLessons (Share that on Twitter?) As he worked on a book, Dr. Seuss would sometimes discard ninety-five percent of it before he was finished. “It was not uncommon for him to throw out 95% of his material until he settled on a theme for his book.”

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These points verify how important it is to edit and cut. My goal was to cut 9,000 words from my manuscript, and I’m happy to say I’m just about half way there. Before I began this exercise my novel was 98,901 words. It is currently 94,506 words, with fourteen chapters (out of twenty-eight) to go. And this cutting exercise gives me the opportunity to edit, edit, edit as I go – my attempt to perfect every word, sentence, and paragraph. What a gift!

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Since you’re so generously putting up with my novel progress reports, here’s a look at another character from my novel. Ava, Ruth Schulman’s daughter, whom you met in a post in January, evolves into the book’s main character. (Please forgive the randomness of this list.)

  • Name – first, last, middle: Ava Miriam Schuman
  • Physical appearance: as a late teen and young adult she is fairly short about 5 ft, 2 in.; womanly Bee Jackson, World Champion Charleston Dancerpear-shaped figure; very fair skin; beautiful clear complexion; dark brown curly hair; long fingers and long nail beds, large brown eyes, dark bushy eyebrows, thick dark lashes, small breasts, wide hips that she swings when she walks, swayed back, thick lips, short white teeth, long narrow feet.
  • Personal histories, born in Sokolow, Poland; moved to Danville, IL as a child of age 3; moved to Chicago at age 16 after her high school graduation; moved back to Danville at age 17, marries at age 18 (sorry for the spoiler).
  • What she says – the words they choose (diction), the way she orders her sentences and words (syntax), her accents, colloquialisms, use of foreign words: her diction, order, and words are very Americanized- she learns flap talk; she was so young when she came to America she doesn’t have an accent. However, she learned Yiddish  from her parents and uses it when she wants to make a point with them or her brother or to keep others from understanding her.
  • What other characters say about her: she can be uppity and snooty because she struts and swings her hips when she walks; she wants to be first and gets upset when she’s not; she’s going around with the handsome young play director – they wonder if she’s had sex yet. Yet her good friends are true to her – the girls at home and in Chicago are always ready with an ear or a great dress to borrow.
  • How she acts in response to specific situations: she might yell if she’s upset; she can be very loving; she is jealous if someone gets to do something she wants to do first. Very aggressive about getting the lead in the school play. And very secretive about her feelings toward Byron.
  • How she acts habitually: she likes to talk in baby talk when she’s with her brother to butter him up; she scrunches her skirt when she’s nervous; she is quick to smile and laugh. She sometimes picks at her cuticles but usually takes good care of her nails. They are always perfectly manicured once she starts wearing nail polish. She is aggressive and disrespectful toward her mother.
  • What are her thoughts, needs, and desires: She’s trying to hide how she feels about Byron; she doesn’t want her parents or brother to know how she feels; she worries her parents and brother won’t let her see him anymore because he isn’t Jewish; she wants to wear modern clothes and take special art lessons; she doesn’t like being treated like a baby
  • What are her favorite foods, clothes, styles, movies: she loves going to tea with Byron and the cookies at the tea shop. When she eats at home she loses her appetite. She doesn’t like the heavy Jewish cooking and all the chicken fat her mother uses. She wants to wear the modern flapper clothes and get her hair bobbed. She loves the movies and the music of the 1920s. She can do the Charleston.
  • What does she want more than anything else in the world: to be with Byron – to marry him – even though it will create chaos in her family
  • Physical issue: swayed back caused by scoliosis, athletic, tomboy as a little girl, good dancer and singer – high pitched voice
  • Her dreams: She dreams she is running through a growing mountain of dry leaves and can’t get far – akin to her struggles to get her parents to accept her relationship with Byron
  • Her fears: that she’ll be banished from the family if she chooses to marry Byron and be mourned as if she were dead.

Please tell me what you think of Ava!

 

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