Wednesday, May 16, 2012


What drives a taut scene? The pacing, the characters, the story, to be sure; but also brevity.

Saying the most you can say, creating the greatest impact with the fewest number of words.

Possibly the most important lesson I have learned as a writer and editor is what to leave out. From the completely unnecessary to the verbal crutches that I lean on (we all have those; want proof? Review your work and discover the unnecessary words that pop up like little tufts of crabgrass, doing nothing to further your story save mar the white space), my own writing--and the works I edit--often benefit greatly when these speedbumps are removed.

Flowery, exaggerated, literary description has its place; but practice the art of brevity to hone your skills.

Famously, Ernest Hemingway was given the brevity challenge, asked to write a six-word story; his powerful response:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
A master class in brevity can be found in that short sentence, which creates a textured story in the imagination of the reader. Visit for more concise gems.

Practice writing a scene with different word counts, especially if it's a scene that is giving you fits. If your scene is 1,000 words, try for 700 or 500; note the difference in tone and expression that you achieve with something as simple as word count and editing.

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