WRITER’S WORKSHOP I, Week 2, Batting Practice

a2807cbb-bac2-4793-9077-71288ce49dfd

Something to think about:

“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.” John Gould to Stephen King, quoted from On Writing

 One more quote from Stephen King:

“In the Spring of my senior year at Lisbon High—1966, this would’ve been—I got a scribbled generated signature of the editor that was this mot: ‘Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.’” Stephen King, On Writing

 While PUFFY pastry sounds delicious, PUFFY prose sounds soft and squishy, uncertain. What does the story want to be? To find out, we sharpen our prose and shed the excess pounds that weigh our stories down. I am a big believer in the power of showing vs telling. To highlight the concept, here is my first draft to last week’s prompt:

Measure Twice, Cut Once (first draft)

Dr. Spinosee lifted the surgical gown up to Mrs. Lindenberg’s right thigh. He moved the adjustable lamp down close to her leg, warming her shin. He adjusted his eyeglasses, pulled a Sharpie pen, Chisel-tipped and green-hued, out of his pocket and removed the cap. The sweet, chemical scent of the dye filled her nostrils, momentarily masking the sterile smells of liquid disinfectants and bleached sheets. The marker’s odor didn’t offend Mrs. Lindenberg’s nose, calling to mind her beloved classroom days correcting 10th Grade English papers with a red, fine-tipped Sharpie; but in this setting, she found it somewhat unnerving. Her flesh, infected by gangrene in her toes, was about to be violently corrected. Even under the influence of the relaxing drug entering her body through the IV drip bag—she could remember what her nurse had called it—she was clear about that fact.

She trusted Dr. Spinosee. When he had delivered the news that he was going to have to amputate her foot and possibly her leg to the knee, she hadn’t second guessed him. He had a solid reputation and seemed to know what he was doing, but now she wondered. She started to squirm and to question him, but he shushed her and glared at her over the top of his thick glasses. “Now, Mrs. Lindenberg, you must be quiet and hold still for me. This is an important measurement!”

Mrs. Lindenberg sighed and held still for the man. The ink felt cool on her skin. She was surprised by how much he marked. When he was finished, he sat back and examined his handiwork, nodding in self-satisfaction at the marks. As he stood up to leave, she cleared her throat and spoke in her best teaching voice, “But, Doctor, the infection is on my left leg.”

Words: 304

I have captured the essence of the story, but it is bogged down with excess words and confused by awkward phrasing. By eliminating a few pounds (somewhat, momentarily, etc.) and repositioning my phrases, I achieve clarity and concision. This first draft phrasing:

He adjusted his eyeglasses, pulled a Sharpie pen, Chisel-tipped and green-hued, out of his pocket and removed the cap. The sweet, chemical scent of the dye filled her nostrils, momentarily masking the sterile smells of liquid disinfectants and bleached sheets.

Becomes:

He adjusted his eyeglasses and removed the cap from his chisel-tipped, green Sharpie. The ink’s sweet, chemical scent filled her nostrils, masking the room’s sterile smells of liquid disinfectant and bleached sheets.

I kept the important parts, shifting the phrasing for clarity. I also dropped the description of the doctor pulling the sharpie out of his pocket. It wasn’t essential to understanding the story and distracted from the Sharpie, which is the focal point of the sentence.

Writer’s Workshop I, Batting Practice

Now it is your turn. Take the piece you wrote for the prompt, “measure twice, cut once,” and try to cut at least 10% of your word count. Remember to look for places where you can alter your phrasing to give the sentence clarity. Rephrase your adverb descriptors: very funny = hysterical, very pretty = beautiful, very hungry = famished. Simplify confusing sentences, and they will impact your audience. You are crafting this version FOR your audience. Have fun and feel free to comment on your approach to this challenge.

My first draft contained 304 words, so my challenge required at least a 30-word cut. I ended up cutting 45.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Dr. Spinosee lifted the surgical gown up Mildred’s right thigh and lowered the lamp over her leg, warming her shin. He adjusted his eyeglasses and removed the cap from his chisel-tipped, green Sharpie. The ink’s sweet, chemical scent filled her nostrils, masking the room’s sterile smells of liquid disinfectant and bleached sheets. The marker’s odor didn’t offend Mildred’s nose but reminded her of former days spent correcting her 10th Grade English students’ papers with her own fine-tipped, red marker. The memory started out sweet, but quickly soured, as she wondered how much of her gangrene-infected flesh was about to be corrected. The drug entering her body through the IV drip relaxed her, but she retained control of her faculties, observing the doctor’s every move with dismay.

Dr. Spinosee had come highly recommended. When he delivered the news that he was going to need to amputate her foot and possibly her leg to the knee, she hadn’t second guessed him. Now, she started to squirm and opened her mouth. “Be quite and hold still! This is an important measurement!” he scolded.

Mildred sighed and held still for the man. The ink felt cool on her skin. She was surprised at the extent of his marks. The bottom of her leg looked like a warped tic-tac-toe complete with X’s. When he finished drawing, he sat back and examined his handiwork with self-satisfaction. As he stood to leave, she cleared her throat and spoke in her best teaching voice, “But, Doctor, the infection is on my left foot!”

Word count: 259

Thank you to everyone who participated this week. I was blown away by your creative approaches to the prompt and thrilled with the quality of the stories. They were a lot of fun to read. I can’t wait to read their trimmed forms!

First draft responses to the prompt:

Christine’s The Shopping Trip 

Angela’s Measure Twice, Cut Once

Manja’s Clip cloppity clop

Stephen’s “Cut Me, Mick, Cut Me!”

Liyona’s Sherlock and Claire

Sarah’s Measure Twice, Cut Once

Ian’s Nathan

Red Cat’s The Seamstress

And this from Jane Tims:

‘measure twice, cut once’

the slogan of careful men
the men who raised these bridges.
beams and posts
shaped and joined and finished.

Carpenters and labourers
Every rafter cut
To fit, position precise
A job to do

Laid out on the ground,
Marked and reassembled
to cross the river

Three timbers marked
XXVI
laid precisely
side by side

Chords, struts, braces and posts
Howe truss configured
Light timbers, metal tension bars

braces and counter braces
making ‘m’s and ‘w’s and diamonds
Built in, a camber, to take the downward weight
of the bridge as it settles

Bridge done, and
and a herd of cattle driven through
to test sturdiness, vibration,

Then, careless, someone fails
to read a sign

Footnote:

The French Village Covered Bridge (Hammond River Covered Bridge #2) was built in 1912 and removed in 2017 after a 13-tonne excavator dropped through the decking of the bridge in October 2016. The excavator, loaded with 3.7 tonnes of wood, exceeded the 12 tonne maximum posted for the bridge.

 

37 thoughts on “WRITER’S WORKSHOP I, Week 2, Batting Practice

  1. Pingback: WRITER’S WORKSHOP I, Week 2, Batting Practice –

  2. Pingback: The Shopping Trip: Revision 1 – Stine Writing

    • Christine, this version is much sharper than the first! Excellent job. The words that you cut out and the simplification (“She had switched before.”) make the work more readable for your audience. I love the choices you made.

      Sorry, it took me so long to comment. Our furry family member, our cat, had a major surgery this week and just got home yesterday. It has been crazy!

      Tomorrow’s challenge is short and easy, but effective. I can’t wait to read what you do with it. Next week will just be a summary, and a fresh prompt will follow on April 4th.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, thank you for the critique! I appreciated the lesson. It is amazing to go back and “be forced” to cut out what you don’t need, realizing you really don’t need it!!! I will keep my eyes open for the next step.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: GoDogGo – measure twice, cut once #2 | Fmme writes poems

    • Thank you, Sarah! When I first read about the 10% cut, I wasn’t sure how to begin. I wondered where I would find that quantity of words to cut. (Then, I started reading my work with an eye for concision and found ALL KINDS of words to cut.😂) The results are worth the effort. I am looking forward to reading your revised piece! ⚾️😊

      Like

    • Sarah, I love this! “I wove them carefully, whispering” became “As I wove, I whispered…” Excellent!
      That is expert crafting. The edited version is strong and lyric.

      Sorry it took me so long to comment. Our kitty had surgery this week and just got home yesterday. It has been crazy around here.

      I will be really interested to see what you do with tomorrow’s challenge. It is short and easy, and you already have a component of it captured.

      Like

    • Awesome job, Ian! “The black night carried countless stars that hung peacefully high above.” became “Countless stars hung peacefully in the black night.” I love the changes.

      Sorry it took me so long to read it. I had a crazy week with our kitty in surgery among other things…global pandemic, etc.

      Excited to see what you do with tomorrow’s challenge. It will be an easy, but effective, one.

      Like

  4. Pingback: TP Haiku and Sunday Chat with Steve 3/15/20, the one where I thank old friends of the Cafe | Go Dog Go Café

  5. Pingback: Writer's Workshop, week 2 – Manja Mexi Mexcessive

    • Wonderful job, Manja! It is the little things: “I start and know it: this will be the best cut. There is no other way.” became “I start, knowing: this will be the best cut. It’s the only option.” The revised phrasing feels stronger than the original. If you read them out loud, you can hear the difference.

      Sorry it took me so long to read this. Our kitty had been in intensive care a few weeks ago and ended up having a huge surgery this week. He just came home yesterday. Amid global pandemic, it has been a little overwhelming.

      That said, I have tomorrow’s challenge ready and can’t wait to see what you do with it. It is short and easy, but interesting and effective.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Measure once, cut twice (cut once version) | Unassorted stories

    • I love this, Angela! My favorite edit: “He knew numbers had a life of their own. But as numerals, they were insufficiently factual to him. Until one day. One was enough. The number eight got too much for him. He could feel it in his bones. It hurt him. Eight was not moving on. It was trying to see.

      He asked a friend to come over and bring an axe.”

      became

      “He knew numbers had a life of their own. But as numerals, they were insufficiently factual to him. Until one day the number eight got to him. He could feel it in his bones. It hurt him. He asked a friend to come over and bring an axe.”

      The revised section is crisp. It feels snappy. Wonderful job.

      As with everyone else, I am sorry I didn’t get to reading this faster. Our kitty had a major surgery this week and just came home yesterday. That, and global pandemic…but everyone is dealing with coronavirus.

      Tomorrow’s challenge is short, fun, and useful; and the quoted passage is directly from the source. Can’t wait to see how you apply it!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: "Cut Me, Mick, Cut Me!" The One Where I Take the Second Writing Workshop Challenge and Cut 10% off a Measure Twice, Cut Once Scene from Rocky, not-poetry, fan-fiction by Stephen | Go Dog Go Café

  8. Pingback: The Seamstress – second version – The world according to RedCat

    • Hi! I am excited to read this. I have your revision and Stephen’s left to read. Will head there soon. The next challenge is up!
      It is an easy but effective one.

      Feel better soon! ❤️

      Like

    • Wonderful job! I love how you maintained the rich detail from the first version while sharpening your prose. For example:

      “My first memories are of my mother singing as she worked backbreaking labour to make cloth and clothes, a living for her brood.”

      Became:

      “My first memories are of mother singing, while working backbreaking labour to make cloth and clothes, a living.”

      The revised version feels personal. As a reader, I am drawn inside the protagonist and feeling the memory along with her, not just observing it from the outside. That is powerful writing. Excellent.

      I hope you are feeling better.

      Like

  9. Pingback: The Shopping Trip: Revision 2 (Week 3) – Stine Writing

  10. Pingback: Sherlock and Claire (a work in progress) – Life and Times of a Quirky Character

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s