As much as I love Twitter (and I do) I know it can be a bit banal. But I work at those stupid posts. And it occurred to me, a lot of things I do to squeeze my formidable wit into 140 characters can be carried over to tighter, efficient prose. (Bear in mind, I am an over-write-then-cut writer, which makes me a bit of a freak, according to my friends. Apparently.)
- Pick what’s worth saying. Not every Tweet has to be rofl hysterical or omg profound. But the best tweets, the least mock-worth and most re-tweetable have something worth saying. Likewise, what you put in your book has to carry information or reveal character, and if something is occasionally funny or deep, throw that in two… as long as it’s short.
- No one wants to read inside jokes or stuff that’s only amusing to you. There are tons of things in the Maggie Quinn books that never made the cut. Trust me on this.
- Cut the ‘nice-nice’ as my friend Candy calls it. (Polite exchanges that no one really cares about.) We have to say ‘hi, how are you’ and ‘fine, thanks,’ in the real world, but we only want to eavesdrops on the tweets that are juicy good stuff. Dialogue should kind of be the same.
- You don’t need as many words as you think you do. Things you can easily cut:
- The word “Just.” Also, almost, simply, merely, and other words that don’t add meaning. Most of the time you don’t need them, and the few times you DO want to use “just” for emphasis, (i.e., it was just not going to work) it will actually have emphasis.
- Adverbs in general. Now, I don’t have the “-ly” hate that some people do, but it is true that one well chosen verb is better than a weak, boring verb plus a modifier. (He took it quickly out of my hands. Vs. He whisked it out of my hands.) And not just (ha!) because it’s less words, but also because it’s more vivid and specific.
- Prepositions and prepositional phrase. These can be very useful when you need to give a location of something. He sat on the chair might be an important distinction from He sat on the bed. But look at, “The rain fell down.” With few exceptions (like if you’re on a space station), there’s only direction things can fall, so ‘down’ is unnecessary. Same with ‘sat’ and ‘knelt,’ and the reverse with ‘stood.’ (This, btw, is something I never catch unless I’m looking for it.)
- The other one that gets me? “She nodded her head.” What else would she nod?
Can deleting these tiny words and phrases make a difference if you’re writing something more than 140 characters? Yes, because the effect is cumulative. These little tweaks are like pruning a rose bush. You cut off the brown, useless bits to show off the roses.