surefire shorteningTry these ten tips to make your novel writing compelling. Shortening your prose makes it more informative, intimate and readable. Begin every day back at chapter one and read it over carefully to get the flow. These samples are taken from the outline of a novel I’m writing about a fifties love affair that resulted in a 60-year marriage.

1. Be More Specific
Before: “immigrants are pouring in to revolutionize the social scene with excitement and new ideas”
After: “a flood of immigrants is rejuvenating the shops and society”

2. Don’t Strangle a Good 4-letter Noun with Big Adjectives
Before: “the monolithic, patriarchal grip of the church is looosening”
After: “the grip of patriarchy is loosening”

3. A One-word Verb does the Job of a Three-word One
Before: “women are turning into feminist activists”
After: “liberated women are agitating”

4. Examine Each Word to See What You Can Ax. Save Some Information for Later
Before: “He is a displaced person from Hungary who has been in Canada for just four years and is working on the Varsity to perfect his English.”
After: “He landed in Canada four years ago and is perfecting his English
on the Varsity.”

5. Delete Meaningless Words Like ‘Whole’ and “What”
Before: “we first go through the whole process of what it is like to be young …”
After: “we guide the reader through the process of being young”

6. Every Minus Word Equals a Plus for Pace
Before: “writing love letters when you are parted”
After: “writing love letters when apart”

7. It’s OK to Sneak in an Extra 3-Letter Word but Don’t Be Ostensible
Before: “The proposal, the pin, the diamond ring…are the ostensible plot line.”
After: “The proposal, the pin, sex, the diamond ring…are the plot line”

8. Delete Redundancy. Use Possessive Adjectives instead of Phrases
Before: “remains a mystery, not to be revealed until the suspenseful end of the book”
After: “remains a mystery until the book’s suspenseful end”

9. Toss Out Vacuous Phrases. Trade in a Long Word for a Short One
Before: “Eve, on the other hand, pushes back against her authoritarian, dominant preacher father and her psychologically crippling life as a minister’s daughter.”
After: “Eve has to push back against an authoritarian, dominant father who is responsible for her ego-crippling role of minister’s daughter.

10. Use Action Words so the Reader Can Go Faster, Identifying Rather than Having to Process

Before: Flash-forwards give the reader the story from the perspective of an elderly couple sitting in their arm chairs

After: Flash-forwards zoom the reader to the sitting-room of an elderly couple in arm chairs

Shortening your prose makes it more intimate and faster to read. We reporters for the Varsity in the fifties deleted every unnecessary word in order to save space and costs. We followed the New York Times‘ mantra of giving our readers “All the news that’s fit to print.” Even that carried a double-meaning — two for the space of one!

Next month writers across the world will take part in NaNoWriMo (national novel-writing month) with the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel in November. I guess that will make December NaEdReMo (national editing and revising month).

My way of writing is to begin every day at chapter one of the manuscript and read carefully to find mistakes, insert or develop new themes and information, juggle paragraphs around, make sure the pace doesn’t lag. This is the only way a book can have flawless unity, structure and choice of words.

Every day I find new ways of improving my prose by this technique and hope you will too.

Happy Reading from CozyBookBasics!