Enough with the Fluff!

Having watched mass quantities of television and movies as a kid, I’m a visually-oriented person. I visualize a manuscript as a backpack filled to the top, but which hasn’t been packed properly, and which has some unnecessary items. What you need to do is unpack it, dump what you don’t need, and make sure you have what you do need. Why?

-Getting rid of useless items lightens the load.

-Getting rid of useless items provides you the option of packing in other items that are more important.

One could argue that a novel has infinite capacity. Type, type, type! But keep in mind that readers may not want to read a 700,000 page novel that has absolutely everything you could think of stuffed in there, relevant or not. Sure, writers like George R.R. Martin break the mold by consistently writing very, very long novels which comprise very, very long series. You are not George R.R. Martin.

So, let’s get back to the simile, and the reasons behind it. Your first goal as a writer is to not let your words get in the way of your story. Anything that interferes with the reader’s reading is bad, while everything that moves the story forward is good. In short, writing should be almost completely invisible, with occasional bursts of brilliance. In order to achieve this, you need to strip your writing of all the bad things that the reader doesn’t like. Confused wording, repetitious phrases, awkward sentences, and misspellings are just some of the things that interfere with the reader’s reading. Here’s a simple example of fluff/padding:

You must watch out for all cases in which you put padding and excess explanation in your novel’s sentences.

There’s a lot of padding in that sentence. Here’s how it can be edited:

Watch out for padding and excess explanation in your novel.

See how that works? This is a 19-word sentence that has been cut down to 10 words. If you can do this with your entire manuscript, you’ve cut your word count by half. You’ve dumped the things in your backpack you don’t need, and can now put in some things that might be more useful to you.

Looking for more tips? Here’s what’s up so far. More to come!

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