Cut The Fat; Make Your Writing Lean: #Tip 10.


It’s been a while: my apologies. I’ve been rethinking certain aspects of my writing life and deciding what changes I need to make, and when and where. And domestics have been a little unsettled recently with some slightly changed priorities that have made it temporarily more difficult to get on with my writing.

Next Saturday, I’ll be at Fantasticon 2015 in Hessle, near Hull, where I’ll be signing books and giving a reading, answering questions and generally mingling with the crowds at this fantastic event. If you’re able to come along, I’d love to see you there. Click on this link for further details.

In the meantime, here’s the next in the series of language tips.

Writers enjoy sharing ideas to improve their craft. Here, I’m looking at ways to trim our writing. Readers will thank us for dealing with common redundancies and a few flabby expressions.

But, reading this post and nodding wisely won’t improve your writing. Stay alert to those extraneous words that sneak into text, or they’ll slide in when you’re not looking. If you include this as part of your editing process you’ll catch most offenders.

Fiction writers should remember, though, that real people often use redundancy and meaningless expressions when talking, so dialogue can appear more natural if you occasionally include these.

Anonymous stranger:

A stranger is unknown and therefore anonymous. e.g. An anonymous stranger blew her a kiss. Try: A stranger blew her a kiss.

You’re going to:

Are you? Depending on context, this is wordy. e.g. You’re going to learn a lesson you’re never going to forget today. Try: Today, you’ll learn a lesson you’ll never forget. Or: Today, I’m going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.

Final conclusion:

The conclusion comes at the end, so ‘final’ is unnecessary. e.g. She came to a final conclusion that she despised her husband. Try: She came to a conclusion that she despised her husband. Better: She concluded that she despised her husband. Better still (esp. in fiction): She finally realised she despised her husband.

These are suggestions; intended to make us think about what we write, to examine the words and help us decide how we can improve our writing. Rules about writing form useful guides, but, in the words of George Orwell, ‘Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.’

7 thoughts on “Cut The Fat; Make Your Writing Lean: #Tip 10.

  1. Last time I attended Fantasticon, Mick, which was last year, I was there from around 08:30 until about 23:00, so a long day. But I won’t be riding a bike or sledging; that’s for sure. mind you, I might have a go in the life-sized Dalek!

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    1. Thanks, Mick. I’m having to travel a good distance to this place, too. The irony is that I used to frequent the foreshore in Hessle where this venue is situated; as a teenager, I spent many happy hours on those muddy shores, as I lived in Hessle. Just beyond the hotel is an abandoned quarry, quite an extensive place that, as children, we named ‘Little Switzerland’ due to its steep cliffs. A place we used to cycle through and toboggan in winter, careless of the danger to life. Ah, the glories of youth!

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  2. Good morning, Stuart.
    I hope all is settling in for you now. Best of luck at your book signing.
    Thank you for sharing your seasoned wisdom with those of us still wet behind the writing ears – sage writing advice as always.

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    1. All getting more or less back to normal, AnnMarie; or what counts as normal for me! Your poetry is evidence of someone well beyond the ‘wet behind the ears’ stage of writing. Keep doing it.

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