About Writing, Life and Writing About Life

Today’s post is not me telling you about something I know (or think I do), it is me asking a genuine question. This comes out of my Friday Fictioneers stpry last Friday, where one of the lovely group of participants went to the trouble of telling me how my story could be made shorter. The trouble is, I don’t know why.
My story was not over the 100-word suggested length for the group. In fact my first draft was 79 words long and I chose to add more in. As you may know, I’m new to fiction writing, so everything I try is new for me. In this story, I was trying out building tension by using short sentences. Did it work? At least a little bit, based on the comments I had. Did I overdo it? Maybe. I don’t, at a the moment, accept that Rich’s amendments make a story which reads better. But I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks. If you pop over to the post you could let me know if you prefer my version or Rich’s, and if you say why then that will help me even more.
So the question is, when you are editing a piece of fiction you have written, should you be aiming to make it shorter or not? I had a little dig around the internet – very briefly – and came up with what seems like a wonderful resource for self-editing fiction. I haven’t had time to read and take in the whole thing, but on the surface it doesn’t seem to make brevity one of the aims for editing. On the other hand, in my book Be An Author, in answering the question ‘How do you decide what to put in a book and what to leave out?” Sallyann Sheridan said “Every word has to earn its living,” which implies that shorter may be better. I also know that there are some books where you finish them and think ‘That was great, but it could have been told in half the length.’
Please weigh in with your opinion. I won’t be editing a full-length piece of fiction for a while, but I would like to be able to apply this to my Friday stories. To be fair, I usually do have too many words and am editing to get the story down to 100, so this week was an exception. Now it’s over to you – I’m waiting for your input and opinions.

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Comments on: "Fiction Writing – Is Shorter Better?" (4)

  1. Sallyann is correct when she states that every word has to earn its living, but so does every sentence too. I think the best authority on the subject is Strunk & White (The Elements of Style): “Vigorous writing is concise. 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. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short . . . but that every word tell.”

    So the best possible version of your piece is somewhere between the two versions. Whilst short sentences do build tension, don’t over do it. I think that the repeated use of the word ‘she’ could be avoided by combining some sentences. However, in my opinion, cutting it down as far as Rich did makes it a harder read.

    • Thanks Dude, that’s really helpful. My belief is that it is important not to edit while you’re writing as it stifles creativity, but after the first draft is finished, the editing is another whole section of work.

  2. Hi Anne. I like your version better. It has a more personal feel, which I didn’t get from Rich’s version. While Rich’s version is more efficient, it is a very different writing style.

    • Thanks Alison. I guess writing style is very relevant – we can only write in our own style, right? And different styles will suit different audiences, so perhaps mine was just not appealing to Rich.

I love to hear from anyone and everyone, so do let me know what you're thinking

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