Kathlyn, one of our non-blogging RWI sisters, sent us a funny the other day. I apologize for keeping the email so I could post it verbatin, but you’re getting the gist: A college professor instructs his class to write a piece including the following elements: religion, romance, surprise, and mystery. And the trick was to do it in as few words as possible.
The winner certainly succeeded:
“Oh, God, I’m pregnant. Who could the father be?”
Most readers don’t want their books told in the shortest manner possible. It’s all those lovely words that attract us to books away, that allow authors to set scenes and create characters whom we love. But sometimes we word-loving authors get too wordy. I once heard a writer friend admit to calling her critique partner in a panic. “I’m trying to get my hero out of this very cluttered room,” she wailed. “There’s so much furniture; he has to walk around this and zig around that, and he’s never going to make it to the door.”
Her friend thought about it a moment, then said, “He stood up and left the room.”
Stuck author was unstuck. She’d been so close that all she’d seen was an unwieldy problem without any solution, but her friend solved it for her in seven words.
Sometimes we need long, lovely, lush passages.
Sometimes we needed short and to the point.
The trick is learning to balance them.