Some of the working writer tips in these posts are ideas I ran across once and remembered because they resonated. Others, like the one today, I’ve encountered many times and in many forms.
The first time I came across this particular tip was as advice given by a mid-list writer who was repeating advice she’d been given by a news journalist. (Shows how professionals help each other. Nice, huh?) Anyway, the journalist suggested the writer check every sentence in every story to see which words could be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence or the piece as a whole.
I tried it and was amazed at how much smoother my own story became.
The second time I ran across this tip was in an article by Stephen King in which he advised writers to eliminate all purple prose. If, after doing so, there was nothing left, he suggested they throw the manuscript in the waste basket and start all over. Excellent advice.
The most recent time I saw this advice was a week or so ago in an online mini-workshop in which a romance writer showed ‘before’ and ‘after’ paragraphs in which the ‘after’ paragraphs had been pared to only those words necessary to tell the story. Not eliminating description, of course, or paring it so much as to be boring, but by taking out extra adverbs and adjectives and all the ‘said’s that weren’t needed to get the idea across. The pared-down versions were smoother and easier reading.
So today I’m repeating this oft-repeated advice and I’m saying it as simply as I know how: write tight.
I will admit that I’m not always good at following my own advice because, as a writer, I love to spend hours at my computer with nothing to show for it later except pages and pages of beautiful words amounting to nothing more than word fluff.
But I try and that’s the important thing. I go through my manuscripts and delete a lot. Sometimes I do as Stephen King suggested and delete the whole thing. Because I know that every word in every story should be both important and essential. I know that the closer I get to that ideal, the better my story will read and the more my readers will enjoy and remember it.