Words. You gotta love them. They can take you to magical lands, to the depths of the ocean or to the craters on the moon.
But what about books that are bogged down with too many words? I can think of several off the top of my head that I skip entire chapters each time I read them. Unnecessary words aren’t just annoying, they’re tension killers.
This is really easy to do, especially as a new writer. My first book was LOADED with unnecessary words. But at the time, I thought each and every one of them had to be there. Boy was I wrong.
When you’re writing a rough draft, it’s ok to be as wordy as you want to get your point across. When you begin to edit you need to chop and dice like a world class chef. But how do you do that?
Start by looking at which words are weak or cliché. Replace them with strong, less common words. Think outside of the box. And if you struggle to come up with a new word grab your thesaurus. It’s literally my best writing tool.
EX: I was over the moon with excitement. (7 words)
I was ecstatic. (3 words)
Here’s one I’ve used recently:
EX: My mind goes haywire, struggling to focus, as he lies down behind me. (13 words)
Vs what I wrote
My thoughts fragment as his length curls around me. (9 words)
Second, look at your descriptions. Is there a more simplified way of saying the same thing?
EX: The ugly old house is falling to pieces. (8 words)
The dilapidated house is crumbling. (5 words)
You’re saying the same exact thing only using less words.
EX: The yellowish white haired girl grabs a lot of attention from the boys at the party with her clear greenish blue eyes and deep red lips. (26 words)
With hair like the sun, sea foam eyes and crimson lips, the girl snatches the attention of every boy in the room. (22 words…and even this could probably be tightened up a bit if I took to the time to work on it.)
I struggled to capture a true picture of what the girl looked like until I read the second example. We all know what the sun looks like, have seen a picture of the ocean or grabbed a sea foam crayon from our kids craft supplies. And the lips…I’m setting a tone as to her personality by the choice in color.
Total word count saved by using edited examples: 15 words. Times that by a 300 page novel and you’ve probably narrowed it down to 250 pages which is far more appropriate.
These are just a couple examples of ways that you can tighten your writing. It’s hard. I’ll be the first to admit that. I really struggle with writing in a simplified format because it feels clipped to me. BUT I’m getting better. With each day that I write, every chapter I complete, every edit I endure and each book I publish, I improve.
Writing is not something you can master so stop trying. Learn the rules of writing and let your muse run free. Have fun.