Friday, July 25, 2008

Cut the Fat

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."

~ Mark Twain

Have you used two or three words -- or sentences -- where one would do?

Keep your work lean and trim. Say more with less.

Look for words like “very,” “actually,” “really” and “quite.”

More often than not, actually, they are really quite unnecessary.

Can you put the previous sentence on a diet and trim it from 10 words to four?

Adapted from Rule #9 in "Eighteen Rules for Revising Your Work," from The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write (LightLines Media, 2008)

Photo: Mark Twain -- damning his very's?


Tarot By Arwen said...


Ya don't need 'em.

How was that? :)

Mark David Gerson said...

Ya done good!

Jett said...

Very good quote! My philosophy is that good writing takes the same process as sculpting: you make a general form of what you're trying to create, then you chip away the excess until you have a piece of art. As for your question of exchanging blog links, I'm adding yours to my blogroll right now : ). Cheers!

Mark David Gerson said...

I like the sculpting metaphor because it suggests a certain care and gentleness, not the hacksaw and machete so many take to their work.

Jeff LeJeune said...

You're right, Mark, my article on stubborn passages is alot like this. We just use different metaphors. The tough thing about "cutting the fat" is that it takes so long to create the fat in the first place. If we can muster up the discipline to get rid of it, not only will our stories be better, but we will feel more in control of our own work.

~Jeff LeJeune