These days we live in a fast-paced world. People can be impatient, especially about reading long-winded posts, emails, and texts. I’ve noticed that even fiction books seem to be shorter.
Our written communication should be clear and concise. Still, extra verbiage can slip in and most often, eliminating those words will not change the meaning.
How do we eliminate words that are simply filler that don’t add to the susbtance?
Personally, I use a weasel word list – an editing help I learned in a Margie Lawson editing workshop. It’s simply a list of words I know creep into my writing. Words like just, that, very, really, etc. Then, when I’m editing, I eliminate or replace those words.
Below is a great infographic that can help you catch extraneous words in your writing.
Before standing navies were established, armies used civilian ships to transport soldiers and their supplies. When the captain of a company of soldiers came aboard with troops for transport, he assumed military command of the ship. He determined its destination and, if the ship engaged in hostilities at sea, directed the battle.
A captain had overall authority, but the master maintained responsibility for sailing operations. The rise of steam-powered vessels phased out the need for sailing masters and the demise of the term ship’s master.
On civilian ships such as cruise vessels, the one in charge is officially the captain though sometimes called master. In popular usage, captain or skipper prevails over the term master for pleasure craft owners.
You’ll find the term captain employed in fire or police department hierarchies and on sports teams, but not master.
Simply put, the difference between the terms is that a master is someone who has control over something or someone while the captain is a chief or leader.
If we think about our writing as our ship, I prefer the term master of writing.
Why? Because a writer who controls her writing skill and, at the same time, understands the business aspects of publishing is more likely to be successful.
That doesn’t mean a writer can’t be a captain of writing and be successful too.
Being a leader (aka captain) in a genre or professional writing organization is not a bad thing as long as the leadership responsibility doesn’t hinder writing time.There are those rare individuals who can be both master and captain of their writing.
What do you think? Would you prefer to be a master or a captain of your writing?
Writing’s hard work. Ask any writer. Good writing is harder. Sometimes weasel words can slip in.
Weasel words are “favorite” words that pop up when a writer is being lazy or rushing.
I first heard the term in a workshop with Margie Lawson. She expanded weasel words to include phrases, overused word, throw-away words, clichés and opinion words that might draw a reader from the story.
Her solution is to keep a personal weasel word list for every manuscript and when you do the edits, remove the weasels.
Grammarly created this infographic of frequently overused words to help writers eradicate such words. Margie and I would call it a weasel word list.
Procrastination means putting off an essential task.
Admit it you procrastinate. All writers do.
Procrastination is a clever enemy often disguised as worthy endeavors such as a writer’s meeting, a writing conference, a computer game to “clear the head”, or a movie for “research.”
Social media, while a critical component for author promotion, can also be a major procrastination culprit. Who doesn’t find Twitter or Facebook or web surfing sucking precious time from writing?
Delaying issues for some writers can be more subtle. Things like spending time reading blogs or books about writing or tidying a work area before beginning. Well-intentioned things to do, however not very productive.
If your time revolves around thinking about writing or learning about writing without actually writing, face it, you’re procrastinating.
So how do we cure the culprit that steals our words from the page?
First, admit you’re procrastinating.
Next, try these five helpful hints to stop.
Divide your project into small chunks
Commit to working an hour on a project by breaking the task into doable pieces. For non-fiction books, this may be creating a chapter outline. For a novel, try breaking the story smaller segments like scenes or start with character development.
Schedule writing time
Too often writers put off writing until everything else is done. The dishes put in the dishwasher, the clothes folded, the dog walked, etc. You get the idea. There is no perfect time to write.
Schedule a one-hour block of time to sit down at your desk and write. Consider it an unbreakable appointment.
Set a timer
Once you have a designated writing time, set your phone timer, a kitchen timer, or an online timer like e.ggtimer.com for 15 – 30 minutes. Forget about whether what you produce is good or bad – keep writing.
Turn off your internal editor and self-critic
Simply write like nobody’s watching. After all, no one needs to see your writing until you’re ready.
Get a grip and just do it.
Put your butt in the chair and W-R-I-T-E whether you feel like it or not. No matter how much strategizing, planning, and hypothesizing you do if you don’t take action, nothing happens.
According to Wayne Dyer, “Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.”
Don’t let procrastination defeat you. Try these five tips and when you’ve put words on the page,
Our story worlds become tangible to us as writers. A video plays in our head as we write. We see the setting; we feel the emotions. Our characters become genuine people moving in an authentic world we’ve created.
While our story worlds are real to us, the reader enters a story world as a visitor exploring what we’ve created.
Interruptions can happen. The telephone rings, a text comes in, or the doorbell rings. Distractions we choose to ignore or respond to.
If a reader is truly engrossed, they will return to the story world just as we return to our writing.
Not so if the writing itself causes the distractions. Then readers turn from explorers into critics or worse yet, quit reading.
Beth Hill (The Editor’s Blog) says “Interruptions from inside the story world become a part of that world and influence our [readers’] reactions to it.” She offers a list of fiction interrupters that writers should avoid.
These are the interrupters that jar me as a reader.
Characters who speak like fictional characters rather than real people. Actors in old movies from the 40s and 50s used pseudo acting voices. Actors today don’t. Neither should our characters’ voices be false.
Unnecessary character dialogue, i.e. characters sharing already known information or dialogue used simply as fill
Contrived plot lines
Deus ex machina endings or endings that don’t follow the story lines
Leaving some story issues unresolved
Characters who act in a ways not compatible with their established worldview or the story era
Lack of character motivation for unexpected actions
Too-stupid-to live characters who do senseless things or act in ways simply so the plot works out a certain way
Failure to include setting references of time and place. Readers need to be grounded – who, what, when, where – at the beginning of chapters and scenes.
Bad grammar, incorrect facts, inconsistent spelling, poor punctuation, preaching or teaching
Lyrical or poetical writing that doesn’t match the story’s style, i.e. purple prose.
Poor sentence structure or confusing words
You can find Ms. Hill’s blog about reader interruptions here. Her list is longer than mine, but neither list contains everything that can distract a reader from a story.
Work of section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.
See friends. Read in cafés.
Explore unfamiliar sections — on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry.
Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program.
Paint if empty or tired.
Make Notes. Make Charts, Plans. Make corrections of MS.
I love his additional note for the evenings:
Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride.
Sketch in cafés and trains and streets.
Cut the movies!
Library for references once a week.
(In our 21st century vocabulary, we’d probably change Library to Internet or Social Media.)
Austin Kleon in his book How to Steal Like an Artist suggests:
“Creativity isn’t just the things we chose to put in, it’s also the things we chose to leave out.”
Sounds a lot like math to me.
Put something in = adding; leave something out =subtracting.
Some creative people start with nothing and add piece by piece until a final work is complete.
The opposite of addition is subtraction. Being creative by subtraction means you begin with a great mass of stuff, then the chip away, removing little by little until the final work is revealed underneath.
Examples of creation by addition
• Musicians and composers begin with a single melody line, beat, or sample and build layers until the piece of music is complete.
• Weavers begin with an idea or design, and then weave thread by thread, color by color, layer by layer until the finished tapestry emerges.
• Poets and writers may write one or two lines at a time, adding slowly, each word carefully chosen and placed in the correct position and sequence and complementing what’s been put there before.
Examples of creation by subtraction
• Archaeologists have a vague idea of what’s buried where they chose to dig, but they delicately, systematically remove the earth and debris to uncover the treasures.
• Sculptors start with a chunk of their chosen medium, stone or wood for example, then chip away gradually until the sculpture emerges.
• Fiction Editors begin with a completed manuscript, and then slowly remove the excess and weak parts to expose a great novel.
Most creative types probably use a combination process of adding and subtracting.
When I’m writing, I start with a premise or theme and add from that. Words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters build until I have a completed novel.
Other times I use subtraction, more correctly called editing, not creating. However, I am taking a whole manuscript and chiseling away to create a finished product.
What about you? Which do you use most adding or subtracting in your creative process? Do you think experimenting in the opposite way would expand or improve your creativity?