There’s No Such Thing as a Wasted Word

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10 writers have teamed up to offer you tips, tricks, and general information about these issues. We hope this series provides insight and useful tools you can put into practice with your own writing habits!

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There’s No Such Thing as a Wasted Word

As a writer who also has a full time job, working on tight deadlines has become a part of my life. Many publishers are trying new ways to release books to appeal to a Netflix culture where the demand to read the next in a series is becoming more and more prominent. They need the books in the reader’s hands faster and, subsequently, the writer has to be able to speed up and meet those demands at a flurrying pace.

Writers now in a very tumultuous climate with few coveted traditional publishing spots on offer, you have to be willing to rise to the challenge. And, like any job, prove that you are willing to work within the rubrics of your publisher’s demands—including tight deadlines.

I speak to traditional publishing above, but I believe deadlines inform all manner of writing. The most successful writers set personal deadlines for their independent releases and for those pre-published authors, for submitting queries to agents or presenting a manuscript to their agent for submission into the great big publishing world.

The moment you decide to pursue traditional publishing as a full-time worker, the moment you realize that the days of the luxury of writer’s block are over. You no longer have the privilege to wait for inspiration. Every single moment of free time becomes precious. At one point last year I was writing the first draft of a novel, finishing content edits on a novella and doing the line edits on another novella: all while marketing my book and making sure I was making the deadlines of guest posts and interviews. My output needed to be fast and I needed to make sure I was balancing my writing commitments without letting my day job (the one that pays the bills ) suffer. For a writer who wrote for 20+ years before daring to find an agent, I was used to languid and slow work, tapping away as a hobby. I needed to up my game and write around the block.

I quickly learned thereafter that there is NO such thing as a wasted word. I would use my lunch breaks to finish all marketing, I would use my subway commute to revisit galley edits and I would use my time at the gym to read over my content edits on my kindle. My life was a cornucopia of words.

When every word counts, you learn how to be more efficient about them. For example, if I am stuck on a scene, I move ahead making a note to loop back later. If I have a great idea for a sequence that won’t take place until the end action of the book, I open a new word document and write and write and write it down ready to be spliced into the manuscript at a needed time. If I am having an off day and the words I am typing seem to be a jumble of nonsense, I keep going. Because, sure enough, you can find a snippet or two to highlight from your jumbled nonsense to later transpose into your story.

As long as you are writing, you are creating valuable output. A paragraph you cut in an early draft of one novel might just be the descriptive you need for a later scene in a different novel. Every word counts.

If your novel is on submission to editors or agents, immediately start writing something else. While my first novel was making the rounds with editors, I immediately started a completely different project in the name of having something in my back pocket. When my agent suggested I abandon that for the moment in hopes of finding a home with a fresh idea that seemed to align with industry needs, I abandoned it as well to start something new. It was the third attempt that was the charm for my foot in the traditional publishing door. And since it was less than two years since I signed with my agent, it meant that my word count output during that time in the name of having several options to try and land a publishing spot was kind of insane. I basically wrote 3 novels in 2 years even BEFORE I was contracted. But what about all the hours of research and writing for my first novel? Since it was a straight historical set during the Great War, I transplanted some of it into The White Feather Murders: my upcoming release that is set at the cusp of WWI. What about all the research and writing I did over a summer for my second abandoned project: a straight historical set during the American Revolution? Those research trips to Boston? I am currently infusing my new project with its cadence and tone — even though it looks different than what I originally envisioned… and its action is set in 1930s Boston and the research trips haven’t stopped, I have just jumped forward a few hundred years.

Being an author means being malleable. It means being willing to set aside the darlings of your heart to take your words in new directions. Abandoned projects see the light of day in different forms and painstaking research and archival digging find new life in original stories. But at the core of all the headaches and frustration and ticking clocks and lack of sleep and over-caffeinated stimulation that buzzes through your veins and trembles your fingertips is one certainty: you have nothing to work with if you have no words.

So play! Keep a notebook in your pocket at all times! Record a great descriptive sentence on your iPhone. Make sure you have a repository of words to work from: they may end up being transformed into something amazing and new and unexpected. But, it is awfully hard to have a finished novel without them.

Rachel McMillan

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Rachel McMillan works in Educational publishing by day and scribbles at night.  She is the author of the Herringford and Watts series culminating in  The White Feather Murders  which releases on May 1. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada and enjoys traveling near and far, spending far too much time at the theatre seeing Broadway shows and reading and re-reading her favourite books.

THE WHITE FEATHER MURDERS

Coming May 1, 2017

wfm

Uncommon Heroes…or Unsuspecting Victims?

Toronto, 1914. Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts never could have imagined their crime-solving skills would set them up as emblems of female empowerment in a city preparing to enter World War I at the behest of Great Britain. Yet, despite their popularity, the lady detectives can’t avoid the unrest infiltrating every level of society.

A war measure adopted by Mayor Montague puts a target on Jem and her Italian husband, Ray DeLuca. Meanwhile, deep-rooted corruption in the police force causes their friend, Constable Jasper Forth, to wonder if his thirst for upholding the law would be best quenched elsewhere.

In spite of these distractions, Merinda, Ray, and Jasper join with other honorable and courageous city leaders in the Cartier Club, which exists to provide newly arrived residents of Toronto with a seamless integration in the city.

When a club member turns up dead, bearing a slanderous white feather, will Merinda, Jem, and those they hold dear be able to solve the high-stakes mystery before they’re all picked off, one by one?

You can learn more about Rachel McMillan by visiting her website, Facebook page , Instagram, and Twitter!

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Check out last week’s post, How Embracing Your Inner Procrastinator Can Make You a Better Writer by Teresa Tysinger. Don’t miss our next post, published every Wednesday! Take a look at this awesome line up!

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11 thoughts on “There’s No Such Thing as a Wasted Word

    • rachel mcmillan says:

      Oh I do! I love theatre and traveling and reading— of course. I also catch as many Blue Jays baseball games I can. But I think writers nowadays need a realistic perspective of the tenacity it takes 🙂

      So nice to hear from you 🙂

      Like

  1. Lisa Garrity says:

    I appreciate the message on perseverance and finding small ways to incorporate writing into life. Now if I could just find that quiet time to hear those words between my marriage, kids, job and never-ending laundry!

    Liked by 1 person

    • rachel mcmillan says:

      That’s a really good point! I am lucky enough not to have any kids or anyone relying on me. Something I knew I wanted from a young age so I could pursue writing 🙂 I know very few people who can balance writing with the care of a family and work. It is one of those choices. I hope you find a season down the road to pursue it if it is a passion of yours 🙂

      Like

  2. Lisa Prysock says:

    Awesome tips! I find myself using every spare moment also! When the dream is strong in your heart to be a writer, you don’t mind walking around half asleep or working crazy hours to do it all. I completely agree that writers need to be flexible and creatively carve out ways of handling the workload and deadlines.

    Liked by 1 person

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