Write It Once

I have a habit of overwriting. Like, a nasty habit of it. To prove this habit, I have thus far cut 90,000 words from my novel. Yes, that’s a novel I’ve cut out of a novel. Like I said–nasty habit. It’s a habit I’m trying to quit and break out of. I’ve found some luck through revision and editing and especially through my critique partners in my writing group. I’ve started to learn the trick of not overwriting: write it once.

What do I mean by, “write it once?” I mean, use one phrase, description, dialog piece to capture what you’re saying–not all three. It can feel like it’s flowing out of you, that one descriptor naturally leads to another, but know that you only need to say it in one way. It is much more powerful to do so.

For example:

“I can’t go on,” Koyta panted. The fatigue dripped from her like the sweat rolling down her cheek. She was tired. 

See how I said the same thing in three different ways? What if I just chose one and refined it so that it said exactly what I wanted to say? Then, it wouldn’t be muddled between other sentences trying to say the same thing.

It takes time to recognize this in your work, but once you do, you can start editing it out. You can decide what works best and what the strongest way to say something is. Really, this is the lesson of trusting the reader. Trust that the reader will get what you’re trying to say. You don’t have to literally spell it out for them. Say it one way with good writing–they’ll get that she’s tired.

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