When you write from an image or memory that’s truly striking to you personally, the likelihood of generating a rhythmic sentence increases. Rereading such passages you might think, this is—“lovely,” “cool,” “pretty”—whatever you’re inclined to use when your words please you. And, after all, you’d better be pleased with your words at least sometimes, because if you’re doing it for the money, odds are that you should quit. Yesterday.
But. Let’s consider that lovely/cool/pretty sentence in perspective. Is it relevant? Redundant? Is it slightly ridiculous due to self-consciousness, intensity, or exaggeration? Here’s the real question: Does it work for your reader, or only for you?
For many writers, deleting words, especially those that seem most beguiling, can feel so painful that you stare in amazement at your fingertips, wondering why there’s no blood when you slashed yourself.
Recognize any of these reasons why slashing words seems to resemble slashing flesh?
- Writers write because they love words. Rejecting loved ones hurts.
- Many writers still recall counting words to complete the paper a teacher demanded.
- It’s faster to write verbosely than tautly.
- Like everyone else, writers associate more with greater value. This includes words.
- Big words remind many writers of the youthful happiness when complex constructions, passive voice, or convoluted metaphors made you “sound”—and feel—smart.
Since these are universal and totally normal responses, what’s the antidote?
~ Remember that, as Marie Kondo puts it in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, “The release of what’s not so good or not so necessary leaves space for the new.”
Cramming your novel with words no one wants or needs is like stuffing your closet with clothes you’ll never wear. Or your shelves with books you’ll never make time to read. Or possessions that gather dust yet are neither useful nor appealing. Let go of the second rate, so that, “In the end, all that will remain are the things you really treasure” (Marie Kondo).
~Louise Brooks is right. Proceed as if “Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination.”
~ Aim for complexity of thought, not expression.”― Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile.
Can you cut or simplify? Then do. Not sure you can cut or simplify? Try harder.
Tip: “Brevity is the soul of wit.” ― William Shakespeare, Hamlet