Hi, SEers! It’s time for another Mae Day on Story Empire. I’m going to preface this post by saying I’m not an editor or expert, but I do make an effort to write tight when composing. Part of that involves eliminating filler words such as that, just, really, very, slightly, and only among others. Most writers know to scour their manuscript and weed out fillers. But how else can you write tight?
As Stephen King likes to point out—eliminate adverbs. I soften that to “avoid them.” Some are necessary, others may enrich a passage. It’s your call on how stringently you adhere to Mr. King’s advice. Note the adverb? I thought it worked here.
English is filled with redundant expressions, many that transfer into our writing. Do any from the list below sound familiar? I’m guilty of allowing several to slip into my WIPs.
Quick glimpse (glimpse)
Bouquet of flowers (bouquet)
Careful scrutiny (scrutiny)
Current trend (trend)
Gathered together (gathered)
Lag behind (lag)
Period of time (period)
End result (result)
Briefly summarized (summarized)
Let’s look at a redundant phrase:
Millie’s heart hammered in her chest.
I see this one a lot, but think about it…where else would Millie’s heart hammer except in her chest? It’s not going to hammer in her arm or leg. 🙂
Millie’s heart hammered against her ribs.
The first sentence is similar to saying Millie’s breath caught in her throat (where else would it catch?) when you could more concisely say Millie caught her breath. You’ve also changed the wording from passive to active, yet another way to tighten your writing.
ELIMINATE PASSIVE PHRASING
“Don’t be thick, Jamie. You know who I am.” A disbelieving snort was accompanied by the pointed lifting of two blond eyebrows. “It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Didn’t you ever read Dickens?”
“Don’t be thick, Jamie. You know who I am.” A disbelieving snort accompanied the pointed lifting of two blond brows. “It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Didn’t you ever read Dickens?”
Note the change in the middle section.
UNNECESSARY ARTICLE AND PRONOUNS
Check carefully. There are times you can eliminate a, an, or the. Same for pronouns.
Millie looked about for a place to sit down, but she didn’t see an empty seat.
Eliminate redundancy and tighten:
Millie looked for a place to sit, but didn’t see an empty seat.
Three words eliminated: about, down, she
TIGHTEN SENTENCE STRUCTURE
James tried to follow the reasoning but was still having problems wrapping his head around the image of his grandfather – – his deceased grandfather – – sitting comfortably on the couch. “You mean A Christmas Carol?” he ventured at last. “. . . ghosts of Christmas past?”
James tried to follow the reasoning but couldn’t wrap his head around the image of his deceased grandfather on the couch. “You mean A Christmas Carol? Ghosts of Christmas past?”
DELETE REPETITIVE WORDS
They’re easy to overlook. Go through our manuscript and kill any echoes. I find reading aloud helps to spot them.
Note that writing tight does not mean throttling your muse. I endeavor to write tight but I’ve also been called a descriptive writer. The two can work together. There’s no need to stifle your creativity, it’s more about choosing your words. I edit as I write, and tighten as I edit. 🙂
What’ your method? How do you feel about writing tight? Is it something you strive to do? Do you have any tricks to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s post.
Ready, set, go!