Monday, July 12, 2010
This is the second in a four-part series on editing for clarity and publication. For clear communication, it's best know what you want to say and how to say it. Today we describe, diagnose and provide fixes for the second of four common problems that keep writers from publication: wordiness.
Problem: Verbosity comes in variations. Words can be unnecessary, overabundant or repetitious. Repetition can also present as recurring text or scenes that don't add meaning or depth.
Diagnosis: Several ways to spot this problem are confusion, annoyance and, ultimately, avoidance. Readers will lose interest in descriptions or scenes that feel familiar and skip them altogether. If they really get annoyed, they'll walk away. If your trusted critique group or writing buddy has these responses, there's a problem.
Cure: Cut unnecessary words, use contractions, and expand your vocabulary by reading widely and using a thesaurus to make one word count for more. For sections or scenes that recur without added meaning or depth, ask yourself: What is this scene or story really about—why did you create it? How can it be revised to reveal character and advance plot, preferably both at once?
Betsy Lerner, literary agent and editor par excellence shares her knowledge of the subject at Betsy Lerner, Forest for the Trees.