Today’s topic is how to make your writing even better by tightening it up!
Now, most people don’t think about this when they have a story idea, they just sit down and write. GOOD! Do just that! Write it all out and get the idea on paper. Too many good ideas get lost in our heads. But once the mass of the story is written, it’s time to edit, and this is where writing starts to feel like work. It just so happens to be my favorite part of writing!
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it really helps so I’ll say it again. For each of my drafts I put four things in the upper right hand corner: The Word Count, the “Was” count, the “As” count, and the “ly” count. I go through each draft and circle, in different colors if I have the pens on me, every single “was”, “as” and “ly” word. These are things that interfere with your writing and should be minimized. Now, obviously there are some scenarios where you can’t use anything but “Was” or “As”, but make sure you try your hardest to get rid of it before you decide to keep it.
Any form of “to be” is weak writing. So try and get rid of “had”, “was”, “were”, and “to be”. These are words that make the verb less powerful, which makes the sentence less effective. For instance, “the sun was shining bright,” versus “the sun shined bright.” The latter is the more straight forward and therefore stronger of the two.
Now, don’t think of these things when initially writing! Just write!
Consider these other ways of strengthening your writing-
Imagery, imagery, imagery. Show your audience, don’t tell them. I find this harder to do when you’re writing in first person, so it’s always a good idea to take a scene and write it in third person, if only to get the imagery down on paper and out of your character’s head.
Vary your sentence structures. We writers tend to develop a style and then get stuck in it. Most of my initial drafts are so tersely written, that they don’t flow at all. I inevitably have to go back and add commas and semicolons to give a sense of rhythm to the writing. A helpful way to find rough patches in your writing is to read your work aloud. This will quickly let you know what sentences simply aren’t working.
Word choice! Admit it, first drafts are terrible! They’re full of words that don’t mean anything, cliches, and all those “was”, “as” and “ly” words we talked about earlier. Thank goodness for Thesauruses! I keep my phone handy for its Thesaurus app, so that I can change a word without navigating away from my story on the computer. I used to think my teachers were full of crap when they said writers picked every last word, but now I know that GOOD writers actually do! Consider your words carefully once you’re in the editing stage, they carry a lot of weight!
In my novel class we’re talking about how much information is too much. In your writing look at how much exposition you have versus dialogue. This is another tough one when you’re writing in first person. Exposition in first person still reads like dialogue, but I don’t think that counts… Unfortunately my novel is in first person, so I’m having a lot of trouble following the rules!
Speaking of too much information, I think I’ve crammed enough stuff into this blog. I’ll let you guys marinate until later this week when I post some Original Work!!
Thanks for getting this far,