Five Ways to Write Tighter
Renee’ La Viness
With the growing popularity of short stories comes the serious need to write tight. Here are five ways to help you meet your project limits. By cutting unnecessary words, you may be able to add depth to other parts of your story or simply make it cleaner and easier to follow.
1. REMOVE UNNECESSARY CHARACTERS. Sometimes we add an extra person to our story. If that person is only needed to achieve one or two things, drop him from the story and give the job to someone more important.
2. IN THE BEGINNING. Did the thing/person just start or begin something? Or did they actually do it? We often use STARTED and BEGAN when more happened. Tell what really happened. The truth can cut words and be more powerful. She started crying. / She cried. The rooster began to crow. / The rooster crowed. (How does he only begin?)
3. SENSES. You want your reader to feel like he is the main character, but he loses that connection when you tell him the character saw, heard, or thought something. Instead, let your reader see, hear, or think it, too. I saw the lion fly. = The lion flew. She heard the cat meow. = The cat meowed. Aaron thought he could do it better. = He could do it better. Wanda knew the storms would last all night. = The storms would last all night.
4. STORY IN A STORY. Sooner or later, many of us write a story about someone telling a story to someone else. This is not a good idea. Drop the outside story (the person telling the main story). Just tell the inside story. Removing the outside characters can drop the word count considerably and avoid confusion about where to put quotation marks.
5. REPETITION. We all know to remove repetitious words and phrases in close proximity. Another way to drop your word count is to find where you have reiterated something in a different manner to make a point. Trust your writing to help the readers see the clue without treating them as if they are going to miss it if you don’t say it in another way, or once more. Just say it once, but make it clear.