We’re all guilty of this one thing. The one thing that can help you achieve your goals, but can also let you down on so many levels.
We’ve all done it. Whether it’s for a university assignment, or a project, or a personal goal of writing a short story or novel, we’ve had a certain word count we’ve needed to hit and we’ve done everything within our means to reach it. I know of people who wrote “a a a a a” for as many words as they needed to and coloured it in white, just to attain their goal.
But what we should remember at all times is one of the most well known rules of writing…
Write With Purpose
Namely: each word should count. Every paragraph should further the story, or enhance character – we’ve all heard that. But maybe that’s too specific? What if we want to enchant the reader with our lyrical abilities, thrill with the rise and fall of the tension, describe the emotions of the pull and anguish of unrequited love? Just make sure you’re writing with purpose, for some kind of reason. Whether that is to entertain, inform, describe, make the reader laugh or cry or get lose in the moment, make sure you know why each sentence counts. If you’re’ enjoying your work and think there’s a chance others will too, then that is writing with purpose.
Omit Unnecessary Words
When you’ve said what you want/need to say – then what?
Well, then you mercilessly snip and trim at your writing until it meets your highest standards. Remember, this is your baby. You need to care for it, cherish it, bring out the best in it. Cut words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, anything you don’t feel is working or adding anything to your story. Be brutal. Go with your gut instinct; you’re probably right.
When you’ve finished your first draft, you might congratulate yourself for reaching your word count without any white “a a a a”’s to fill up your lines. Enjoy the feeling, but just know that your work is only just beginning. Now is time – to put it as poetically as I can – to mould a turd into a Michaelangelo sculpture. You might hate your finished piece but after a few drafts you’ll begin to see it in a new light. No first draft is ever good, or as good as it has the potential be. Cut words and rearrange sentences. Use the synonym tool – with caution. Twist and turn your story in new, unexpected ways. Find new subplots you hadn’t realised were there all along, right beneath the surface. Create unpredictable twists and let exciting events unfold.
The story can do or say just about anything you want it to. Just make sure that every word of your final version means something to you or the reader.