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Bob Nailor

Fluff - Defluff

An interesting thing happened to me. I submitted my novel to my agent and he was sending it out to the appropriate places. He sent me an email. He had a publisher who was willing to read the manuscript IF IF I was willing to up the ante on the word count to one-hundred-thousand. That is 100,000 words. The novel was already at 76 thousand. This reader wanted me to write another 25 thousand words.

I said yes.

Why did I commit to this? Simple. I had another plot line which I could add into the story. It would up my word count without doing a lot of fluffing.

In the writing world, this is a method of increasing the word count of a manuscript. It is usually accomplished by adding superfluous words to describe a scene or item. Example: The lone tree appeared stark against the sky. To fluff the sentence "properly" would be something like: The dying, lone tree appeared stark, blazoned against the fire-hued sunset colors of the sky. A poor attempt of fluffing the original sentence could be: The very lonely tree appeared extremely stark against the bright sky.

The first sentence consists of 8 words. The second sentence has 16 words. The last sentence has 11 words. Of the three, I prefer the middle one.

Using adverbs is an easy way to increase word count but, at the same time, the sentence quality and impact can be lessened.

Properly used adjectives can up that word count and actually engage the reader with a better reading experience.

The worst example of fluffing that I can think of would be from the 1987 movie "Summer School" starring Mark Harmon. His two students who he claims share one brain, offer their term paper with the word "very" repeated excessively to fulfill the 100 word requirement. The sentence was something like "We like the Chainsaw Massacre movies because they are very ... very good." "100 words, Mr. Shoop. We counted them." THAT is definitely a bad fluff.

Of course, as I stated earlier, if you can add a new or expand a current plot line, fluffing up the word count is much easier and not quite as obvious.

This is a critical aspect in writing. A good writer can self-edit and know what words to remove from the sentence to improve, tighten and increase the value of the thought. I've written many tips about superfluous words to remove from sentences and how to tighten the concepts and make the sentences stronger. Unless you have to stretch (fluff) the word count to meet a requirement, tighter, better sentences always win out when dealing with a publisher. As any publisher will tell you, space is a valuable commodity and filling it, just to fill it, is a waste for them. As I said before, better to make your sentences count: a strong 200 word story at $.10/word is better than a fluffy 350 word story at $.05/word or less.

Defluffing is important and should be taken seriously by all writers, especially many of the Indie publishers who feel their first pass is a direct gift from Heaven. I was one of them, too, many years ago but self-publishing was more via Vanity Presses and one had to pay through the nose for that opportunity, too.

We all think of our work as our baby and contrary to popular belief not all babies are beautiful. Through the process of elimination, you will discover the ugliest baby to be born and if you approach the mother and ask; she will tell you, her baby is the fairest in the land.

So, through the process of elimination, each story is going to get progressively worse and need to be defluffed … or heavily edited. Unless you are taking dictation from God, much of your work will need to be defluffed, it is just the way Life is.

Defluffing and Fluffing are fancy words for editing. Learn to defluff and fluff, as needed and required.

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Onisha Ellis
The fluffing I dislike is when the author repeatedly restates what has already been said or done. Congrats on the book acceptance!
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Congratulations on the upcoming book.
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Rebekah Lyn
I can't believe they wanted to you add that much fluff. I tend to scan when I feel too much fluff is happening, even more so as I get older. I want to get to the point.
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Elyse Salpeter
UGH, I'm a big defluffer - I've been known to lose 12K in editing defluffing... I tend to add way too many unnecessary words to my novels in the first place, but I try not to mire myself down worrying about them and just clean them up later.
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Lisa Jey Davis
I'm always de-fluffing. Apparently I am, by nature, a very fluffy writer. HAHA!
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