Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shorter Is Better

I'm in the middle of a novel written by a well-known author who has several acclaimed works to his name. When I saw the newest one, I knew I wanted to read it. It's a simple story that could be very interesting, but it goes on and on and .... Well, you get the picture. Halfway through the book, I keep thinking, "Get on with it" I've read the same things over and over with extra little bits of information tossed in to keep me reading. But the whole thing has become tedious enough to have me skipping to the end to see if this man resolves his problem or ends up walking a beach for the rest of his life.

Which brings me to today's topic. When writing a novel, a short story, or a nonfiction piece, shorter is always better. Writers love words but they tend to use too many of them. Editors are constantly harping on cutting X number of words out of a submission. Writers bristle at the thought of cutting those precious words they'd labored over and given birth to.

But the editors are usually right. Tighter writing is far more interesting to read than something long and drawn-out. In my online critique group, one of the criticisms that I see over and over is that the writing needs to be tightened. Make it shorter and stronger. The writer mumbles and grumbles, then goes about cutting those precious words and the usual outcome is a much better piece of writing.

In the writers' world, maybe the acronym KISS stands for Keep It Shorter Stupid!

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