I have been known to commit the “wordy writing” crime a few times in my writing aspirations. The key to being a good writer is good editing. In order to achieve successful writing, one must come to recognize when their work has become fluffy, overwritten, and wordy.
One of the biggest lessons I learned during my graduate studies was that I was, in fact, a very wordy writer. It took having an open-mind, a yearning to want to create the best work, and pushing back when my pride wanted to step in, to find a place where wordy writing became direct and to the point. Here are some tips to help clean up your wordy narrative:
I have quoted Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, before and his advice on the use of adverbs. He states, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” While this simple statement alone seems a bit over-the-top, it holds a great message about the negative effects of adverbs within the narrative. Self-check the use of adverbs by doing a “find/replace” review that locates all the -lys. Some of the common adverbs are: usually, actually, very, basically, suddenly, and really. Try reading the sentence without the adverb and if no significant change to the meaning is observed, delete it. Or, rewrite the sentence another way without it.
Every writer has a weakness or weaknesses within their writing. It’s important to locate them, recognize them, and find better ways to express what you are trying to without falling back into old patterns. Excessive punctuation, fancy wording, and/or too many negatives are all areas that writers can fall victim to. Try writing shorter, direct sentences, simplifying word choices, or find other ways to use verbs than with “not” or contractions like, “shouldn’t,” “couldn’t,” and “didn’t.”
3. Using strong verbs
Verbs are the action moving and pushing the plot, story-line, characters, and dialog. Without strong verbs and action to drive a narrative, the story will fall flat and lose the reader. The only way the reader can and will be able to visualize the story unfolding and the characters involved is the writer’s ability to execute strong, vibrant verbs that leaving a lasting impression.
4. Use good judgment
It seems like common sense would take precedence during the writing phase and the words magically fall on the page. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. It is important to learn how to trust your instincts and practice good editing. It is also important to understand the areas you struggle with, to find grandiose words, or excessive adverbs; however, it is just as important for the writer to trust their instincts and writing skills. Perhaps, an adverb is needed, or the dialog requires a negative, maybe the eloquent word does flow better and adds more to the narrative. You are the creator. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what you think works best and what needs to be clipped.