Summertime. Freedom. More time for fresh air, sunshine, outdoor and leisure activities. Many of us focus on watching what we eat and getting healthy. Why not put your summertime writing on a diet too?
Drafts can be padded with excess phrasing and vague or unnecessary words. The point of the draft, after all, is to get thoughts to paper. But, once a writing session is completed, I like to go back and trim the empty calories–the “filler”–then focus again on drafting more. (Later, during revision, I’ll rethink and rearrange, but I’ll spend less time wading through the excess.)
Just as we focus on shedding winter weight, reread your MS and learn to cut the empty words. Keep your prose as lean and energized as possible. Each phrase should add substance to your story or article, otherwise it adds nothing but padding. Think of empty words as empty calories. They ruin good writing; they pull true talent out of shape.
Cut to trim the filler. Here are a few things to look for:
▪Hedging Words: These show insecurity, uncertainty, lack of confidence
▸usually, probably, maybe, rather, fairly, perhaps, sort of, kind of, somewhat, quite, a little, look, seem, -ish, -looking, -seeming
▪Weak Modifiers: a modifier is a helping word. It adds detail or intensifies meaning, but weak modifiers dilute the meaning.
▸just, so, such, very, really, even, at all, certainly, all, definitely, exactly, right, anyway.
▸avoid this and that in excess
▸for ‘just’ to have the impact it has in spoken form (often provided through inflection) use it sparingly in written form
If you use the above in dialogue, they can show an insecure or boring character. If this is not your intent, trim from dialogue as well.
The more aware you are of unnecessary words during the draft, the cleaner and clearer your draft becomes. This allows more time during revision to focus on content, plot and character development for instance, rather than editing for clarity.
May your summertime writing be trim and healthy!