As a writer you are constantly hearing the professionals talk about “tight writing.” I thought I knew what this meant: have a good story with no loose ends. Wrong! I didn't understand what the term meant, until Backspace entered my life.
Tight writing keeps the reader in the story; the tighter the writing, the tighter your hold. Okay, but what does it mean? It means stay far, far, far, away from words that clutter your sentence. Writers tend to like these words, they make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. But beware; these words are evil little infiltrators that love sneaking into your sentences and muddling them. Muddled sentences are bad.
Here’s a little exercise for you. Take a page from whatever project you’re currently working on and see how many of these words you find:
ThatThese, Literati, are referred to as “weed words.” Don’t Google the term though, you’ll be assaulted by pages and pages of links about marijuana. True story. A side note: Janet Reid, literary agent extraordinaire, refers to removing these words as a “that-ectomy,” essentially removing the word “that” from your writing. But wait! There are more evil infiltrators! Adverbs and adjectives and infinitives...oh my!
What are the first ten rules of creative writing? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Rules one through ten are the same: Show, don’t tell. But what does it mean???? Allow me to drop some knowledge (thank you David L. Robbins!).
She waited anxiously.
She sat waiting, biting her nails and shaking her leg.
In the first example, the writer is telling the reader the character is anxious; in the second example, the writer is showing the reader that the character is anxious.
Bottom line, we are storytellers and our readers want a good story, they long for one! You’re a reader, you know this. Our goal is to capture the reader and pull him/her into our story. Make the story believable, create strong characters, and kill those weed words. Weed words take a reader out of the story.
Stay tuned for the first installation of the Fairytale Series (tomorrow) as well as more notes from Backspace, including details from David L. Robbins’ seminar. If you are a writer, this is a MUST READ.
As always, happy reading and writing!