Last month, I shared Five Key Tips for Writing Tighter Sentences.
Today, in Part Two, I share a few key strategies I’ve found helpful in my quest for tight writing:
Dump most of the backstory, and by this I mean any of the information about the protagonist’s character history and background that can be weaved into the story through dialogue or action.
It’s important to know your characters. Yes, it’s important to get deep enough under their skin where you are able to make them so real they jump off the page. However, you don’t want to load the story down with too much narrative before the action begins.
Cut pointless chit-chat.
Dialogue needs to advance the storyline. Readers don’t want or need to hear the characters conversing about topics unrelated to what’s happened so far in the story, or what will happen. If the actions, exchange or dialogue doesn’t lend to making the reader want to turn the page, cut it out and add details that will add tension or conflict.
Don’t show by action and then tell about it in a conversation a paragraph or a page later. Take care not to use the same word over and over. I, too, have become attached to specific words, such as the word moment, and once used it over six times on one page. When you notice a word appears several times on a page, you need to eliminate.
A good question to ask is: why use two or more words when one will do? For example; the phrase tightly stretched says the same as stretched. Try shorter sentences vs. longer which are a waste of words. For example: She nodded her head vs. the simplified She nodded. A Good Thesaurus is invaluable. Keep one handy.
Cut back on the ly adverbs such as actually, suddenly, forcefully, slightly to name a few often used. You won’t, nor will you want to eliminate adverbs entirely, however, you might want to try substituting the passive words with a more action oriented, descriptive verb to create stronger, more powerful sentences. Ask yourself does the inclusion of a word enhance the sentence?