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Cut cut trim trim shape shape DELETE

September 10, 2012 by Kiersi


Photo by powerplantop

The last few days have been all about trimming the excess. Haven’t settled on whether to use a sculpting or a steak metaphor yet–I’ll keep you posted.

For your (and my) editing pleasure, here’s an excellent article by Rayne Hall on removing “could” from your novel’s word diet to make your writing sharper and cleaner. And it’s not just “could” Hall takes to court, but also words like “feel” and “hear”–verbs that put unnecessary distance between the author and the character.

A great piece of advice. Lately, I have been repeating this mantra:

Keep it simple. Somewhere in the beginning of an author’s education, we mysteriously acquire the notion that more is better. That flowery descriptions are an essential to the writer’s armory. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism–putting lots of words down somehow makes up for those words not being as good as they could be.

I’m guilty of overcomplicating my writing every day of the week, so I set a goal for myself on this revision: keep it simple. Trim fat between dialogue; let the conversation bounce from speaker to speaker naturally; shave down or cut descriptions completely; avoid tangents during important conversations; and, of course, make the prose pleasant but easy to read.

Wordy is not the name of the game–but meaning is.


  1. I’m not one for a lot of description. In fact, my editors usually ask for more because I keep things too simple. LOL. In a way, I think adding a little description can be easier than trying to decide what to cut though, so I’m sort of glad this is the case for me.

    • Personally, I love descriptive writing – but there’s a difference between descriptive and wordy. The best descriptions evoke intense impressions in few words.

      If you’re naturally a writer with a terse writing voice, stick with that. Don’t bloat your individual style with wordiness or lengthy descriptions.

      If your editors want more description, try this trick: mention smells. A brief mention of smells creates a much stronger impression than several paragraphs of visuals. Sentences like “The place reeked of boiled cabbage and urine” and “She smelled of hairspray and bubblegum” can achieve all the description you need in very few words. 🙂

    • Kiersi says:

      Ha! Lucky problem to have. Perhaps we should merge our powers Captain Planet-style.

  2. I’ve been telling myself the same as I wade through my sea of words for a middle-grade novel. Really have to keep it simple!

  3. I read a great post–I wish I could remember where–about how in fiction, it’s better if characters don’t call each other by name unless it’s needed to identify someone to the reader. It really does slow things down, and I’ve been implementing it. With out the unnecessary naming, the dialogue is sharper.

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