Summer Writing Slim down

IMG_0059Summertime. 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.

Edit-MSCut 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!

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Writing Routine

love my routines — especially when they relate to writing. At the beginning of every new semester or session of writing workshops, it can be a struggle to settle into a routine. I’ve learned to give it time to settle because I know that routine ensures my creative habit. 

When paradise weather sets in, I begin my day with coffee and my journal on the lanai. The scenery inspires me and I enter “auto-gratitude” mode which is a great way to begin each day. The journaling is a warm-up for writing so it’s easy to transition to writing at a computer screen.

For new writers, it can be tough to create the writing habit, yet a regular writing routine sets a career in motion. Once you’ve set a schedule, it’s frustrating when life messes with it. It’s okay if the schedule is sporadic from time to time. It will settle back into place when the timing is right. Until then, try to write everyday – for at least 20 minutes. This time adds up. In six days you’ll have 2 hours’ worth of work. You’ll be amazed what you might accomplish.

If family interruptions stifle your writing plans, it’s even more important to set a regular writing schedule. Not only will it help your family realize you’re serious about your writing (and if you want to receive payment, it is at least a part-time job) but it helps you take your writing seriously.

One woman I know posted “office hours” to help family get the point. Another made a “mailbox” by taping a file folder to the door. If the kids wanted to ask her something, they wrote it on a slip and put it in the mailbox, which she checked several times a day. Only emergencies warranted interrupting. Other tricks include wearing a specific “writing” hat — if it’s on your head, no one interrupts the  creative flow.

If you have small children, they won’t understand that you’re “working” so you may have to focus on adding up paragraphs instead of minutes. Target writing one paragraph during nap time. They’ll build to a story or article in a few days.

Every little bit helps.