Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Writing Tip: Tighten Up

The tighter your writing, the stronger it will be. You should always be on the lookout for words, phrases, and even whole sentences that can (and should) be pitched. No, I don't mean you need to sap all the artistry out of your words--

"Now is the winter of our discontent" is a lot better than "Our discontent is over," even though the first sentence is almost twice as long. Still, I hope you can see that either of the above is better than "Now is the time when the winter of our discontent is here."

The key to creative tightening is not to shorten your sentences as much as possible: it's to make sure that every word counts. Write potent words, reeking with significance. When every word is essential to clarity, beauty, and power--when there isn't a single word that can be thrown out without leaving a dearth--you're done tightening.

It's a subjective art, of course. No one will ever do it perfectly, but to come close is a writer's peculiar joy.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Rachel R. said...

Clearly explained. :) If only I could refer my own students to your blog. :)

10:37 a.m.  
Anonymous TOSPUBLISHER said...

Congratulations! You are the winner of The Goofy Query Letter Contest over at Home Where They Belong. You will be contacted on how to receive your prize.

Tia Linschied
Senior Editor of HSB

11:09 a.m.  
Anonymous Kristin said...

Rachel, thanks for this tip. I have had a tough time tightening my writing and your tip helped :) Thanks!

And I just saw you won the Goofy Query Letter award - congrats :)

Kristin

1:26 p.m.  

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