“Less is more,” I whisper to myself as the pitter-patter of keys pounds away in the background. A deluge of words spills like a waterfall onto the blank page in front of me while echoes of the Minimalist movement’s most famed artists beat their ageless message into my brain… “LESS IS MORE… LESS IS MORE… LESS IS MORE.”
Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Yet, when I sit down and begin the process with the purest of intentions to heed the call, it’s as though the words write themselves then fight to the death for immortality… battling redlines; contesting edits; surviving rewrites and revisions.
For a writer, the discipline of “word economy” is serious business: more torturous than nails down a blackboard; more challenging than writer’s block. In this time-starved day and age of texting that often leaves grammar, impassioned communication, and eloquent soliloquy to one’s imagination, the ability to ‘economize’ while effectively staying true to one’s story is paramount.
In today’s competitive publishing environment where the marketplace is rife with exceptionally talented authors, poets, and writers of every genre imaginable, it is essential that all writers learn how to finesse their stories while adhering to the keys of word-economy:
- “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” (Thomas Jefferson)
- "Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity." (William Zinsser)
Take for instance “The Painter’s Box,” my 1st prize winning short story for the 2010 www.coffeehousefiction.com fiction writing contest which is available through Amazon.com in the Fifteenth Dame Lisbet Throckmorton 2010 Anthology – link below: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Fifteenth+Dame+Lisbet+Throckmorton+2010+Anthology&x=12&y=19
Originally written as a 5,000-word short fiction piece, paring it down to the requisite 3,500-word limit was challenging but well worth the exercise. Less was definitely more… and the impact of the editing process was inspired.
The method I’ve described allows me the opportunity to learn what makes my writing style unique; what is essential and nonessential; how my ‘critical eye’ can teach me to be ‘selective’ and ‘flexible’ and not to be married to my ego… just let it go.
One last comment on the subject: Find and keep a great editor at your fingertips. Whether it’s a friend, confidant, colleague, or paid professional (mine is my amazingly patient and always supportive mom), always run your pieces by someone who has a passion for reading and editing your work. There’s nothing better than an honest critique that helps you determine just how much less is more.
What techniques do you use to master word discipline?
Rachael, thank you so much for stopping by today and sharing your writing wisdom with us. It is always inspiring to me to hear a writer's thoughts behind their craft.