Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Other Side of the Coin

You might recall April 19th's topic, Is Your Writing Tight? where we discussed ways to trim our prose for clean, crisp writing. We had a vibrant conversation going with comments sharing advice such as use concise verbs and simple verb tenses, watch for passive writing, cut the unnecessary, and carefully kill adverbs and adjectives. Great stuff, all.

Comments also addressed another view. One author said we can cut till words become too dry. Good point. We don't want our writing to lack life, becoming parched and blowing away like ashes in the wind, now do we?

This author went on to say that every word needs to be present for a reason. I believe she's right, and concur with other comments that pointed out how sometimes extra content is necessary, particularly in fiction's dialogue and description.

Pondering further, I considered additional occasions, such as a friendly column, conversational article, or blog post. One's style and personality is often reflected best with an assortment of well chosen words, ones that might otherwise be weeded out for different projects. Interestingly, while still in my musing mode, I ran across this post, To Make a Long Story Short, which highlights Jennifer Brown Banks' take on the subject. Do great minds think alike or what? :D

My take on tight writing is influenced by several factors. As a writing instructor, for example, I'm ever on the lookout for redundancies like free gift or past history, and places where words might carefully be tweaked for better results. As a fiction writer, I aim for an interesting tapestry that brings a story to life. Smart writers, I believe, live, write, and learn, and find the right fit for each scenario.

So it's a balance, is it not? What factors influence your writing habits? How do you keep both sides of the coin polished?

Have a great weekend,
Karen

Photo credit: Stock Exchange

25 comments :

  1. There are so many balances we need to strike with our writing. I find I can infuse a lot of voice in dialogue + my MC's thoughts and actions that go with the dialogue.

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  2. Thanks for this post, Karen. One way I keep my writing tight is by eliminating adverbs almost altogether. When I revise, I go first to my verbs, for verbs are the anchor points of our writing. I make sure that my verbs are strong. If I find an adverb (Adverb Alert!:), I check the verb and find a verb that includes the adverb. In this way, I can eliminate the adverb. For example, if I find that I've written "walked slowly", I'll replace it with a verb like "sauntered" or "ambled".

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  3. I'm still learning. My writing starts off as bare bones and I have to flesh it out with just the right words of description, feeling, and the senses.

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  4. I love hunting down those unnecessary words and hacking then out of my MS. It's like a treasure hunt in reverse :) Good reminder on the repeat redundancies. (Is that one?)
    Jan

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  5. Theresa,
    You are so right! I like your idea, never thought about it in quite those terms - thanks a bunch!

    MaryAnn,
    I like that! I appreciate your input. Will look at the WIP along those lines now. :)

    Alex,
    Me too! Always something to work on and balance, but this a a good thing, I think.

    Jan,
    Ha, I like that - a reverse treasure hunter! I need to remember that. Repeat redundancies? Yes, I'm thinking maybe it is!

    Blessings all,
    Karen

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  6. Hi, Karen:

    I trim best after taking a break from my writing and then returning with a fresh set of eyes. At times during the writing process, we can't see the forest for the trees because we are so entrenched in finding perfect words. Taking a moment away can make the weeds in a piece more apparent.

    Great topic!

    Blessings.

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  7. Good post. I write a lot of picture books where every word counts. You have to pick the best words to get across your story. Eliminate all those unnecessary words.

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  8. I agree Karen. It's getting that balance right. Reading my work out loud helps me too and being totally honest with myself that the piece does have a good rhythm. :-)

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  9. I'm a word junky, if ever there was one. To pen something in terms of "tight" or "crisp" isn't a conscious endeavor, but when I re-read something I've crafted, I typically remove or alter redundancies, oxymorons & "fluff". But I do love a good word picture, like "musing mode". You caught me with that one!

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  10. Janette,
    I think that's a good idea; if you can give it time to "rest", it really does help. Great tip, thanks!

    Janet,
    Thank you! It's great to meet you! It is a tricky task, isn't it? But so well worth it when you hit that right balance. :)

    Diane,
    You hit on something I was just thinking about - reading our work aloud. That helps me a great deal too. Thanks for sharing!

    Kathleen,
    I suppose we all have our methods, and yes, the "fluff" can slow things down, can't it? Glad you liked "musing mode". It just came to me. I must be a writer...:P

    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  11. Hi Karen .. saying things in a few words and getting the meaning over - is an art and having a wonderful feel of vocabulary and grammar.

    It's a pleasure to read .. thankfully in blog posts exuberance can shine through .. !!

    Cheers Hilary

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  12. Most days I write very bare bones fiction, but then on some days I get into the description. The tough part for me is during the revision stage, when I'm trying to balance out the dry with the verbose moments in my early drafts.

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  13. It really is a balance. Cut too many and it really can become dry.

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  14. Again - food for thought! Yes, it is a balancing act. Once more, you've got me on my toes, trying to tighten up. I know which side of my coin needs polishing.

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  15. Hilary,
    I agree, and as for exuberance shining through, your blog is a wonderful example! It has great personality, which I suspect, reflects you to a "T". :)

    Tyrean,
    We all need to work on different areas, don't you think? But this is a good thing and we are always learning!

    Jennifer,
    Yes! And you, of all people, should know, being the author of several successful books!

    Rhonda,
    Well, it's just as much for me as anyone else. I'd have to say you strike a good balance. I never look at your work and think that you need to tweak it!

    Blessings all,
    Karen

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  16. Great topic, Karen. Thanks much for the mention. :-)

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  17. I agree that we are constantly trying to find a balance in our writing. Have a nice weekend.

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  18. I'm quite a sparse writer, and I try to make every word have maximum impact - even with descriptions.

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  19. I agree with all of these, Karen. And I've found them very important to my growth as a storyteller. One thing that has never worked for me, and I'd like to hear your opinion, is reading backwards. I don't get it. The sentence makes no sense, so how do you tell if something's off?

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  20. Jennifer,
    You are welcome! You know, us great minds must stick together!

    Rachna,
    Yes, balance is what we need, that's for sure!

    Talli,
    That's a good way to put it - maximum impact. I like that!

    Joylene,
    We're always growing, aren't we? Reading backwards, I've heard of it but never done it. I don't get it either, and I don't recall what the logic is supposed to be. Maybe our brains pick up more that way somehow? Will let you know if I get any great revelation on it!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  21. I write and then go back and take out extra words. Then, after rereading, if my intent isn't clear, I might add a word back. I agree, it is a balance game.

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  22. I try to find different, shorter, ways to say things. I try to adhere to "why say four words when three will do." Sometimes it can't be done, but I try.

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  23. Nancy,
    I do pretty much the same. I find it depends on what I'm writing. A tricky balance, indeed!

    Cecelia,
    I forgot about that phrase; thanks for the reminder! I know what you mean; we do get better over time, you know?

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  24. Hi Karen,

    I'll often read the section I'm editing out loud. Anything that feels awkward or trips me up gets further attention.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  25. A great post, Karen and so much to learn from it.

    Thanks.

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!