The right words

The right wordsI’m busy working on a few short stories. I always find it interesting working with a word count because of the way I approach short stories. I usually grab an inkling of an idea and just write until I feel like its run its course. I don’t think about word count until later, when I edit, and usually this means the story overruns the word count by a fair amount. Now I have a story that has potential but it needs serious culling.

Enter, the figurative red pen.

How do you eliminate paragraphs and still say what you need to say? Well, you have to find the right words.

If you are anything like me, you love words. I love trying out new words. I love shifting and reordering sentences to highlight particular words. I love finding just the right word to describe or explain something. This is particularly helpful when it comes to writing a short story because you are limited. I love that limitation – it forces me to be creative. It forces me to be economical and find the best words – usually less words – to communicate what I am trying to say. Often this process forces me to simplify, strip down and really find out what the story is about because only when you know your story, can you find the best words to tell it.

Jack Kerouac says it better than I could:


Recently an editor friend of mine offered to read through my latest novel. As we sat chatting through her suggested edits I was surprised by how much sense it made to cut whole sections from the story. They were fun to write but they were superfluous. Unless your superfluous sections are there to make a point (maybe your story is about excess and you want the wording in your story to reflect that), they need to go. Often you can find one word that says it better than the four or five words you wrote.

Writing Excuses has two great podcasts on this very thing, if you want to give it a listen: Trimming and Brevity

In the meantime, I’m off to wrestle with paragraphs and find some better words. Keep writing.


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