Monday, October 31, 2011

How to Write Tight - Part 3

In my last two posts, I’ve talked about ways to write tight or at least self-edit to make it appear that way. Check out these tricks.

9. Search for “ly” words. You don’t have to cut them all, but it’s good practice to look at them and decide if you could remove the adverb and use a stronger verb instead. For example, “Betty spoke softly.” This can be tightened like this, “Betty whispered.” Or, “He walked into the room in a leisurely manner.” This can be tightened like this, “He sauntered into the room.”

10. Use strong nouns and cut adjectives. This doesn’t mean you need to delete all adjectives, but you want to use them sparingly. For example, “The cute, little, young dog ran quickly as the spunky, skinny cat chased him.” This can be shortened to, “The puppy sprinted as the cat chased him.” Granted, sometimes you want the extra details an adjective can give you, but use them in moderation. Here’s another example, “The huge, old, run-down, ghost-filled house was haunted.” This can be tightened like this, “The mansion was haunted.” Or, “The old mansion was haunted.” Sometimes you want to go into details with a description, but you can’t do that with every description.

Make sure you don’t cut pertinent information. If the details are necessary to move the story forward or reveal something about the main characters or their past, you’ll want to go into more details. The problem some writers have is they describe EVERYTHING. Know what to keep, what to delete, and what to weave into the story.

11. Watch for “repeaters.” These are words that you use over and over and over again. I know. These are hard to spot on your own. Have someone else read your story to find them. Or change the font and color, and/or print out your story so you see it in a different light. You’d be surprised how many times your characters smile, walk, laugh, nod, and shrug. Substitute the word with another or use a different way to show the same emotion. For example, if the character has smiled three times in a row, you might want to have him laugh or say something so we know he’s happy instead of having him smile.

Wednesday, I’ll post the last part of this series. Happy Halloween!

Lynnette Labelle


  1. Happy Halloween Lynette :)

    I've wasted many a tree printing out a short story or novel so I can point out each word to myself with the tip of a pencil. And still, I miss things. My mind still tells my eyes what to see :)


  2. Donna: LOL That's why it's always important to have someone else read your story as well. Hope you had a nice Halloween.

    Lynnette Labelle

  3. Personally, instead of "old mansion", "decrepit mansion" is better. It includes "old" and "run-down" in one adjective.