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Monday, January 25, 2010

My Writing Must Haves #1--Brevity

A couple of years ago, I posted about how I use lists to help me stay focused on the nuts and bolts of writing. One of the most important of those lists I keep for easy reference on the wall directly behind my computer monitor. I've simply titled it: "My Writing Must Haves," but in actuality, I adapted it from an article I read several years ago by acclaimed author, Gary Provost. It was titled "The Seven Beacons of Excellent Writing."

Because "My Writing Must Haves" list has been so helpful to me, I've decided to write a series of blogs discussing each point on it. The first is Brevity.

Gary Provost began his discussion of brevity (tight writing) with this statement: "When you write and rewrite, don't think about what you can put in. Think about what you can leave out."

Since magazines require writers to say a great deal in very few words, I initially believed this advice mostly applied to that media. However, after Missing was accepted and later as I went through an extensive revision process, I learned that brevity is also important to novel writing. Think about it. Haven't you read novels in which you were at least tempted to skip over sections, sometimes even pages, of an author's prose because it was boring or redundant? I have, and every time it wasn't because the author's story line was boring; it was because the writing was too bogged down with words that didn't carry their weight. So on my list, next to "Brevity," I've written this definition: "include only words that are necessary."

How do we do that? Again, borrowing from Provost, I'll end with three, "brief" tips:

1. Stick to your subject matter; i.e., the specific slant of your article or the goal of your story. Don't wander down unimportant paths or dally in unnecessary information.

2. Begin at the beginning, where the story takes off or where your character's life changes in relation to the plot, and not a moment sooner.

3. Eliminate unnecessary words. I've discussed one way to do this here.

So that's it. Write tight and check back soon. My next post in this series will focus on "Clarity."

1 comment:

KarenG said...

You are so right on with this, Ronda. One of my pet peeves is wordiness, so I end up going too far the other way and don't write enough. Then I've got to go back in and fill stuff in. I look forward to reading the rest of your list.