When you write, think of painting a picture. It can be any picture you want, but think of the images that must be in the painting. For example, a beach scene.
If you wanted to duplicate this picture, you would need to include the sand, ocean, and sky. You wouldn’t add clouds, the sun, an umbrella, etc. If you added those things, you may lose the tranquil setting this picture represents and change the meaning. Adding unnecessary items may distract your audience or lose them entirely.
The same is true in writing.
Adding unnecessary words, phrases, and punctuation can distract your readers or cause them to stop reading. Once that happens, conveying your message is almost impossible. Most studies agree that the average adult attention span is 8 seconds or 140 characters. Not words, characters. If that’s true, you would only read the first two sentences of this post before moving onto something else.
So, what does that mean to writers? It means we need to cut the crap.
In the chapter Art is Inspiration, Ueland discusses writing from our hearts and saying it like it is. She credits Russian writers, like Chekhov, who focus more on the truth rather than how they sound. Personally, I enjoy Russian writers for the same reason and believe that it is more effective to teach readers than sound like you have read the dictionary.
Here are a few tips to help while you write:
1. Don’t use words/phrases no one knows or ever says. Big words do not make you sound smarter or tell your reader anything about you – except maybe you’re over compensating for something. As you write ask yourself, “Would anyone ever actually say that?”
2. Only use adjectives and adverbs when needed and know how to use them. They do not improve your writing or ideas, and sometimes readers will think they are fluff.
3. Show don’t tell. Future post coming, but Ueland says, “… quietly describe what you are feeling. Don’t say your boredom was excruciating or agonizing, unless your own was, which is doubtful.”
4. Focus. Remember to only include what is necessary to convey your message. This tip applies to characters, setting, plot, words, objects, etc. You probably wouldn’t paint a mountain with a fruit bowl, so why would you add unnecessary words, details, or characters to your story? Everything should have a purpose.
Do you have any tips on editing? For more info, check out: