I saw a post on tumblr talking about removing ‘extra’ words from your writing and it sparked this post. I’ve been seeing a lot of these posts on tumblr, by well meaning writers on how to make your writing look professional and clean. Objections to each and every post have boiled up in my mind as I remember when I was a younger writer and I was struggling to merge the lanes of writing advice. I would like to start by saying: take everything I say and every other writer says by a grain of salt. Whether they are published or not.
What makes a passion or job like writing so difficult is that it is a creative process. There aren’t any rules, there isn’t any scale by which your stories worth can truly be matched. All you have to do is transfer the basic idea and scene of what’s in your mind into another person’s mind. Translation? With decent grammar, spelling, gumption, and imagination you, anyone, can, in theory, be a writer.
Now that this longer winded warning is out of the way; it’s time I get to the fruit of this post: removing extra words. The post that sparked this rushed interest, was talking about ‘trimming’ your stories or novels so that you no longer have: ‘stuffy sentences and filler phrases.’
DO be careful when you are doing this. Before you decide to take this route – I definitely recommend having some sort of trimming process when you edit. Everyone will recommend a trimming method of some type because it is always needed – have someone impartial read your story and then pitch the idea of massively trimming certain words, phrases or types of sentences from your story.
Keep this in mind:
Just as it’s possible to not trust your readers enough, it is also possible to trust you audience too much and while the information they may need is still there, they may not see it unless they look over the sentence or paragraph multiple times. As people do not tend to do this, you may wind up confusing your readers.
I can think of, off the top of my head, quite a few writer’s who loose their unique writing voice and confuse people when they do this. While the words may be, in theory, unnecessary, in order for our brain’s to fully comprehend and imagine a scene, sometimes we need the little extra padding.
I like books that take me into a new universe for a little while. stories where I literally taste the scene around me and I find writer’s who get rid of ‘extra’ words don’t give me this feeling. I get too easily distracted and pulled out of my space.
As much as I hate to say it, make sure you know your story and seek multiple other opinions of people who would read your story (not edit or whatever, but average, normal people) sometimes your story needs a little extra padding. It’s supposed to be a mattress not a box spring.
Honestly your readers don’t want to enter a perfect, box cutter story with academic writing. We enjoy a loose dog hair here and there and as long as your story is good, we don’t mind the dirty dishes in the sink.
Reader’s viewpoint is more important than your editor box sometimes.
As with all advice take what I’ve said and what they’re said to be subjective. Neither is wrong and neither is right, just be careful.