Writing Tight (making every sentence count)To me, writing tight means writing with clarity.
1. Simplify your sentences. Instead of writing: Jane hopped in her little yellow car, revved the engine and made the wheels sputter in the gravel before she took off toward the big city, toward the unknown. Write: Jane hopped in her car and headed for a new life in San Francisco.
2. Get rid of clutter. See Kim Blank’s article on Wordiness at http://web.uvic.ca/~gkblank/wordiness.html
3. If a word is unnecessary to the meaning of a sentence, toss it.
4. Use the active voice. The dog bit the boy. Not: The boy was bit by the dog.
5. Adjectives and Adverbs. Don’t say “Jane mumbled unclearly” when “Jane mumbled” does the job.
6. Read your story aloud or have someone else read it to you.
7. Be specific. Don’t make readers work too hard to understand your character’s actions and motives. Don’t write: Jane’s childhood was horrible and involved many physical altercations. Write: As a child, Jane was beaten, raped, and locked in the closet every night.
8. Show readers what happened instead of what didn’t happen. Strunk and White recommend, “He ignored her.” instead of “He was not paying attention to her.”
9. Don’t worry about writing tight during the first draft. Writing tight takes practice and should be done in the revision process. Writing tight doesn’t mean always writing shorter sentences. Clarity always comes first.
In a recent blog, when talking about cutting pages, Jill Monroe gave some good advice: Delete all words that are filters, such as could, just, and seem. Take out the passive was “ing.”
If you’re afraid writing tight will change your voice, try it and see. Take one page of your manuscript and follow these tips. You might not like cutting your beloved words at first, but when you’re done you’ll see that you’re writing is cleaner, tighter, better.
To add clarity to your writing you also need to watch for grammatical errors. See Colleen Gleason’s WNP article, Fixing the Top Ten Grammatical Mistakes of Writers, at http://www.wetnoodleposse.com/archives/Sept_2006/writerslife.html
Feel free to add your own “writing tight” suggestions to the list.
All questions and comments are welcome!
Disclaimer: I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. I don’t always practice what I preach, especially when I write fast and then don’t take the time to revise and revise again. Use what works for you. Toss the rest. Use your instincts. Believe in yourself and in your work.
Don’t forget that Friday is a special Q&A day. Post that day or e-mail Jillmonroe @ cox.net (no spaces)