Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ann Bogle: Tighten, Tighten, Tighten

Tighten, Tighten, Tighten
By Ann Bogle

Cut unnecessary words.

Sometimes setting a maximum length for a piece of writing is the parameter that will help you begin to notice extra wordage. I’ll set the maximum word count for this column at 300 then demonstrate cuts using this paragraph. It’s all right to write freely prior to cutting text. Cutting wordage changes rhythm so it is important to decide whether rhythm as you first lay it down matters more than concision, and it may. Repetition facilitates music. On the other hand, concision communicates certainty and irrefutability: What you have written is irreducible to every eye.

Word count of foregoing paragraph: 95. Let’s see where we can shave 40 words:

You will notice extra wordage when you set a maximum word count. The target length for this paragraph is 55 words. Write freely prior to cutting. Be aware that tighter writing may be less fluid than writing that takes its time or repeats itself. Repetition facilitates music. Concision communicates certainty. What you write becomes irreducible.

Use all you know in as short a space as possible.

If your character is paying for onions, think of cash, budgets, and soup, of the smell of onions frying, of rotten onions, of onion on the breath and fingertips, of tearing up at peeling onions. Think of the varieties and colors of onions, onions’ uses, regions where onions grow, trade history. Assume your character and audience know what you know about onions. Look at the word “onion” in various dictionaries. Think of occurrences of onions in literature and history. Think of this writing as one of those occurrences: What can add at this moment to the literature about onions? Assume there may never be a better opportunity to discover the onion. The time for what you know is now.

Ann Bogle has published short stories, prose, and poetry in many literary journals in print and online. For a listing of her publications and a sampling of her writing visit Ana Verse at:
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