Tight Writing is Good Writing

Competition judges and magazine editors eliminate manuscripts exceeding the required length. Successful authors have learned that tight writing shortens their manuscripts without diminishing impact.

1. Cut the‘s. “She locked all the windows,” becomes “She locked all windows.”

2. Delete bland adverbs. “She really was just totally confused by the very complex problem,” becomes “She was confused by the complex problem.” or “The complex problem confused her.”

3. Use metaphors over similes. “Maria longed to touch his muscles which were like blocks of solid oak,” becomes “Maria longed to touch his muscles, blocks of solid oak.”

4. Employ words for double-duty. “‘Things ain’t like the old days,’ the crone said in a raspy voice,” becomes “‘Things ain’t like the old days,’ the crone rasped.” (Double-duty eliminates ubiquitous said’s.)

5. Edit details that do not develop plot, character or theme. “She donned her trousers, sweater, wool socks and boots before leaving the house,” becomes “She tugged at the oversized sweater to conceal her pregnancy.”

6. Replace stings of itty-bitty words with powerful words. “Don’t set him off and make him mad,” becomes “Don’t provoke him.”

7. Use plural forms. “She rarely attends a party,” becomes “She rarely attends parties.”

8. Write it once. “Fifteen years ago in 1980 . . . ,” becomes “In 1980 . . . ,” or “Fifteen years ago . . . .”

9. Rephrase prepositional phrases. “Andrew kicked the leg of the table,” becomes “Andrew kicked the table leg.”

10. Delete give-away sentences. “He was never the same after the accident,” is deleted. The idea should be implied through the character’s action and dialogue.

11. Use adjectives sparingly. “The kitchen had a sour, musty, rancid odor,” becomes “The kitchen smelled rancid.”

12. Chop would. “Each evening he would salute the flag,” becomes “Each evening he saluted the flag.”

13. Reverse subjects and objects. “Andrew spiked his words with accusation,” becomes “Accusation spiked Andrew’s words.”


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