Friday, December 7, 2012
Writing Tight: Don't Be Wordy
I have two tight deadlines next week, but I've already missed a couple of posts recently, so here's a quickie. I do a lot of manuscript critiques. (See my rates and recommendations. If that link won't click through, copy and paste this link: http://www.chriseboch.com/newsletter.htm). Even advanced writers often get wordy. Here are some tips on eliminating that problem so your writing is as tight as my deadlines (plus other sources with more detail).
One of my pet peeves is characters nodding their heads or shrugging their shoulders. What else would one nod or shrug? We don't nod our elbows or shrug our stomachs. (If you have a character doing that, then definitely specify!) Otherwise, you can simply say he nodded or she shrugged. Yes, I know, this is a tiny, unimportant detail. But trust me, once it's pointed out to you, you'll start to notice and find it irritating!
Another unnecessary phrase – he thought to himself. Unless you have psychic characters, we'll assume he's not thinking to someone else. (In close point of view, you don't need to use "he thought" at all; just state the thought and we'll understand that the character is thinking it. But that's another issue.)
I need to get back to work, but in case you have more web browsing time, here are a couple of my favorite posts on eliminating wordiness.
Cut the Clutter and Streamline Your Writing, from Crime Fiction Collective, by Jodie Renner Editing: “Once you’ve gotten through your first draft, it’s important to go back in and cut down on wordiness and redundancies in order to make your story more compelling, pick up the pace, and increase the tension and sense of urgency.”
Cut the Clutter and Streamline Your Writing, Part II, from Crime Fiction Collective by Jodie Renner Editing: “Start by cutting out qualifiers like very, quite, rather, somewhat, kind of, and sort of, which just dilute your message, weaken the imagery, and dissipate the tension.”
It’s a Story, Not an Instruction Manual!, from Crime Fiction Collective, by Jodie Renner Editing: “Whether you’re writing an action scene or a love scene, it’s best not to get too technical or clinical about which hand or leg or finger or foot is doing what, unless it’s relevant or necessary for understanding.”
And a warning not to take things too far:
Crossing Words Off Your List: Making the Most of Editing "What Not to Use" Lists, from The Other Side of the Story by Janice Hardy: “The right word for what you're trying to say is always the right choice, no matter what that word is. Most times, cutting that flabby word or finding that strong noun or active verb is the right choice, but once in a while it's not.”