Is your manuscript cluttered? Too wordy?
If so, you’re not ready to publish your memoir.
I thought of de-cluttering the other day when I took a look at the top of my desk—I mean really took a look at the top of my desk. I see it a dozen times a day but I am so accustomed to seeing the clutter on it that I don’t really see it.
But I made time to look: I saw an African table game, a gray plastic gizmo, my husband’s collection of FDR books, a pad of sticky notes with my husband’s list on it, a pen, a plastic totem pole our neighbor brought back from Alaska, my coffee cup on a coaster, a photo, Medicare booklets, my granddaughter’s pink hair band, and a little game in a tube which, I think, also belongs to her. Some of that is clutter—clutter that can and should be removed.
We need to notice clutter in our writing, too. For example, look at a revision of the third paragraph (above):
I thought of de-cluttering the other day when I
took a look looked at the top of my desk— I mean, really look looked at the top
of the desk. I see it a dozen times a day but I am so accustomed to seeing
the clutter on it that I don’t really see it.
That’s what “write tight” means—to cut extra words.
“Vigorous writing is concise,” says William Strunk, Jr. “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
Joseph M. Williams says, “Some words are verbal tics that we use as unconsciously as we clear our throats,” words like actually, particularly, certain, virtually, individual, basically, generally, and practically.”
Williams gives this before-and-after example:
“Productivity actually depends on certain factors that basically involve psychology more than any particular technology.”
He offers this revision: “Productivity depends more on psychology than on technology.” (Style:Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace)
If I remove my desk’s clutter, it will function better—it can serve its purpose. In the same way, if we de-clutter our manuscripts, our stories will more likely accomplish their purposes and benefit our readers.
And if I clean up my desk, the antique oak’s beauty shines. Similarly, if we clean up our manuscripts, the beauty of our messages can shine.
Look over your manuscript.
Read it aloud.
You’ll be happier with your condensed version,