Writers Workshop: Tight is Right

Writer Wordart

Learning to write well is a process, a learned way of doing your craft. That means you need to keep an open mind and a reader’s perspective about your work. In other words, avoid the most common pitfall for new writers, falling in love with your own words. You are a writer, not a character in a Shakespeare tragedy.

There are some things that seem inescapable in life. Gravity, for example, is pretty hard to avoid. For writers, especially those who are new to the trade, words often become enemies. It really doesn’t matter whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, there seems to be that inevitable learning phase when “more is better” dictates your art. In fact, it usually destroys your work because it bores your readers. For the reader, your work turns into the kind of legal disclosure that adorns baking power boxes or household cleaner bottles.

Tight is right” should be tattooed on every would-be writers forehead. It’s a mistake that we all make at some point in our writing careers, usually at the beginning. However, word-overload is the bugaboo of every reader. Do you read? Then you know what I mean.

Readers need breathing room. They do not need, or want, an unrelenting ejection of words that don’t convey something meaningful. This is true regardless of the genre that attracts you most as a writer. This is why great poetry is great. There is a paucity of words and an abundance of meaning. Traditional writing should use the same rule although, obviously, not the same technique.

If you can’t grab that reader in the first two or three sentences, you’ve lost the reader forever. It sounds unforgiving but, as writers, we are in an unforgiving business. Those first few sentences should be tight, powerful, fascinating and informative. If they are not, you’re not ready to publish. Needless to say, the rest of your piece better follow suit. You wouldn’t want to lose your reader half way through your best work, would you?

If you want to write well, write tight. Make every word count and never worry about the word count.

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