Monday, August 20, 2012

Fat Writers and Skinny Writers

Don't let the title fool you.

This is not about the physical attributes of a writer.  It is about the physical attributes of your manuscript.

Fat writers are writers who pour their heart onto the page and end up with page after page after page and when editing have to cut all the fluff that people usually skip when reading a book.

Skinny writers are writers who pour their heart onto the page and end up with what would seem like a glorified outline to those fat writers out there. When they edit, they add flesh to their manuscript.

I'm one of those skinny writers. This trait comes in handy when I'm writing Picture Books, but is not such a good trait when trying to write longer manuscripts.

But even when writing Picture Books you have to make sure every word is perfect. Every noun, verb and adjective is just the right one. The one that will jump out at the reader and make them love your story.

I am getting better with my longer manuscripts.

When writing and re-writing your words, some things you need to do are:

Make a character sheet. List all your characters - write down what they look like and what type of person they are. This is very helpful and will keep them from having black stubble on their face on one page and blonde hair on another.

Add Description. When I go back and reread, I find skinny places where  I need more description. Not in picture books, mind you, but Middle Grades. Make that scarey place in the woods where kids are told not to go, really scarey. Tell about the tall trees, boulders big as Volkswagens, dark shadows moving across the ground and strange howling in the tree tops. And even add a tall tale passed down through the generations that makes it a place where you don't want to visit.

Write about the minor characters. Give them quirky traits and names to add a little interest and humor to the story. I found that in my latest WIP I had not mentioned anything about the teachers. I think they deserved at least a mention, so I gave them interesting names and a description or two to add some interest. Kids like to read about a quirky or interesting teacher.

Give your main characters certain quirks or habits. This can add to the story in more places than one. These traits can be scattered throughout your story, adding words (calories) to your manuscript and making it more interesting, too.

But, don't add words just for the sake of adding words. Add words to make it more interesting and a better story.

My current Middle Grade WIP is almost finished. I have fattened it up and it is over 20,000 words. I have met my goal and made it more interesting in the process.

This picture book writer is learning.

How do you add 'fat' to your manuscript?

Posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch


  1. My process is very similar. I wind up adding a lot during revisions, fleshing out the characters, the setting, etc. The one area where I'm a "fat" writer is plot: I try to cram too much into the story and then I have to figure out what to take out.

  2. Good info. I enjoyed reading this. All our processes are similar whether we write for children or adults.
    My advice to anyone is to write the story first and trim the fat later once you have it all down. (I don't always take my own advice) I learned to trim the fat when I was writing essays. You can't have one extra word there!
    Good luck with that middle grade book.
    Blessings, Barb

  3. I'm a bit of a skinny writer too and add MUCH during revisions. I am finding that if I outline more thoroughly, I can write "fatter" the first time.

  4. I think I might be a skinny writer too. I add fat but setting the scene better or even adding more to dialogue. My poor WIPs need a lot of work. :-)

  5. Great tips, Janet. I am a skinny writer too. As you said, being a skinny writer is to our advantage when writing picture books.

  6. I really admire you, Janet. You almost have another children's book finished. You are an inspiration to all of us. These are great tips for writing and developing characters. Thanks for sharing your secrets of writing with us.

  7. Fascinating post, Janet.

    I tend to write skinny, too, then during revision--and sometimes rewrite--I go back and plump up the description to enhance the characters or sense of place.



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