Eliminating Wordiness

Recently I won some stuff off of Jen's blog. One of my gifts was a CD of editor Rick Steele speaking on Writing Tight.

He really delves into things that I'm going to mention later.

He also had his class do a helpful exercise in eliminating wordiness.

Consider the following sentences, and then if you feel like it, tighten them and leave your version in the comments section:

Jane most often likes to pluck her eyebrows in a haphazard fashion.

Lapping at his water bowl, the dog fell to the ground in an exhausted heap.

She was so happy when the the call came from an editor.

Go ahead and be creative with these, or even leave your own examples of wordy writing. Can you usually see your wordiness? Or does it take the help of a crit partner?

Rhonda McNight reposted one of my posts!!!! It's on Urban Christian Fiction. Thanks Rhonda!


Jody Hedlund said…
I'm looking forward to hearing more about what you learned on this subject! I might be wordy and long-winded at times im my comments! But I think, overall, I write tight, sometimes erring on the side of too tight. In editing, I will add back in the things I miss with emotion or setting detail.
Katie Ganshert said…
Jane plucks her eyebrows haphazardly. (although, here we have an -ly)

For the second one - I don't think the dog can simultaneously lap the water bow and fall to the ground....so:

After lapping at his water, the dog collapsed on the floor.

She danced and screamed when she got THE CALL.

Although...I had a hard time condensing the last two. It'll be interesting to see how others do it. :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Jody,
I'm sure you do write tight! You've worked hard at learning the craft.

I'm sure I don't always write tight, but I think I err on the side of sparseness sometimes, so, like you, have to go back and add in details, etc.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Katie!
You did great with my pitiful examples. You're right, the dog can't do both. Snort! Silly me. Can I blame it on being tired? LOL!
What you are doing up at 4 AM, girlfriend??? That's too early for brain work! LOL!

Having been a writer for tech and advertising copy, I find that I'm almost anal about wordiness. Sometimes I think I need to add more words! LOL!
Unknown said…
I was oblivious to wordiness until recently. Hopefully I've gotten a bit better. But I'm not sure. (I'll refrain from the exercise just in case!)Great post, can't wait to see what comes next ;)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Donna,
You probably are anal, but that's such a good quality. Each word is so important to the story. Analyze away, my friend!

I'm not up at four. Trust me. LOL! I just set the blog to post at that time.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi MaryBeth,

Well, once you can recognize wordiness, it helps a lot. But sometimes you need another eye too. I'm sure you're better than you think! :-)
Oh I have found I am a mixture. At times I am extremely wordy and then other times, I need more detail. It will be interesting to see as I go through my WIP how wordy I really am! lol
Jessica Nelson said…
That's what rewrites are for! No worries. The time to catch the wordiness is in the revisions, not the rough draft, so you're fine.

Although I don't think I'm super wordy, I always find sentences to be shortened or reworded for clarity. :-) Have fun!
Robyn Campbell said…
She danced after hearing from the editor.

Great post. I have been known to be WORDY from time to time. Every day in fact!
Oh, goodness. I can be the wordiest of the wordy. Definitely have to pay close attention here!
Cindy R. Wilson said…
I can usually see my wordiness when I go through to edit. But it makes it harder then to condense what I want to say and I sometimes end up rewriting entire chapters. I'm working harder on trying to keep down the wordiness in the first place so I can focus more on the flow of the story and details on the second time.
Nancy J. Parra said…
Nice little exercise to start off my writing day... great post. Thanks!
denise petrovich said…
Great insight about wordiness. I am not a writer like you all but I do write for myself and found my style changes depending on my mood. Is anyone else like that? Terse sometimes then maybe nastolgic? Love you. Mom
Katie Salidas said…
It generally takes a critting partner to beat me over the head with a book on mechanics to see my wordiness. LoL. I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else rewrites.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Robyn! So you're a talker, huh? :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Janna,
Your excerpts don't seem too wordy to me. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Good for you Cindy! Printing things really helps me also.
Jessica Nelson said…
Thanks for stopping by Nancy! :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Mom,
You never know, you might write something someday. You have the urge. I definitely think people's style changes with their mood.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Katie!
You must have tons of bruises! Heeeheee.
I'm looking forward to the rewrites too. :-)
anita said…
Congrats on the repost, Jessie! I'll check that out later.

And you know all about me and my wordiness, first hand, you trooper you. In the past, it did take the help of my crit partners but I think I've finally come to a place where I can spot the excess and tone it down on my own.

But I'm not willing to make all of it too tight. There's the flow to consider. I now pick and choose which sentences get the extra stroke of my artist's brush, so they'll really stand out. Some of us have a lush style and it's one thing to shave it. I just don't want to labotomize it. Heh.

Here's my rewrite of the sentences, though I decided for fun to make one SPECIAL sentence even longer. :D

Jane often plucks her eyebrows haphazardly.

Lapping at his water, the dog slumped down, exhausted.

(I've actually seen my labs lay down during the process of drinking if they've been running around the yard like crazy. They put their forelegs around the bowl--it's pretty comical).

And for the BEST sentence of all:

She bounced around the room like a Mexican jumping bean in a fiesta when the the wonderful, enthralling, LONG-AWAITED call finally came from an editor that would forever live in her mind as the HERO of all her books thereafter. *swoon*

Snort! I think all of us can relate to that last one. Have a great day, Jessie!
Jessica Nelson said…
Ha! We're on at the same time. :-)

LOL Love the rewrites! Oh my gosh. When I get the call my throat will be hoarse from all my screaming. And my legs sore because I for sure will look like a Mexican jumping bean! LOL

Thanks for your funny comment. :-)
Angie Ledbetter said…
Jane most often likes to pluck her eyebrows in a haphazard fashion. (Jane's eyebrows were usually in need of tweezers.)

Lapping at his water bowl, the dog fell to the ground in an exhausted heap. (Spot lapped up his fill then keeled over.)

She was so happy when the the call came from an editor.
(She almost fainted when an editor called.)
Jessica Nelson said…
Great examples Angie! I love them. Especially the fainting part. I wonder if anyone's ever really done that? Too funny.
I'm terrible with wordiness. One of my crit partners is forever asking me to shut-up my words. Sadly, I don't always notice enough of my wordy sections. Looking forward to hearing what tips you got from the CD.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Eileen,
I think I remember you bemoaning this before. *grin* Don't say sadly, that's what crit partners are for. :-)
Jess: Thanks for the link.
This was a great cd and exercise.
The older I get, the less wordy I become, both verbally and in writing. Takes too much energy!
Terri Tiffany said…
I try hard not to be wordy when I write--only when I talk!lol
Karen Hossink said…
I am often wordy. And since I always try to keep my blog posts on the "shorter" side, it is not unusual for me to do lots of cutting before I publish.
But for me, lots of my wordiness is my own working things out. Writing helps me think - so when I have my own head figured out, cutting the words isn't too painful. *grin*
Danyelle L. said…
Can't add any more, but these are some great examples that got me thinking. :) I can be wordy sometimes, just depends on the mood I'm in. :D
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Danyelle, Terri, Karen and Jen,
Maybe we can all be wordy, huh? :-)

Jen: You seem pretty peppy to me. :-) I bet you're a very energetic person.

Karen: That's interesting that you work your thoughts out on paper, but makes total sense. I always kept a journal. Emotions jumble things but words can name our emotions and order them, in a way. Thanks for sharing that thought!

Terri: I didn't think you were wordy at all when I met you! :-)

I'm like you. My poor mom used to despair at my moodiness. :-) Now I control it a little better. I think. LOL
kudos on getting the blog post reposted! i thought that was one of the most creative posts i've ever read pertaining to writing. :)
Oh this is a big one for me! I actually cut almost 3,000 words from my MS on my last round of revisions mostly by trimming a lot of those overly wordy passages.
Unknown said…
Wordy? Me? No way. My first draft was only 150k words. I don't need any help with wordiness. ;)

Editor + The Call= :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Jeannie,
Thank you for the nice compliment. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Karen! I can't imagine writing something that long though. Whether it was wordy or not, at least you can reach 90k with no problem.
Jessica Nelson said…
Wow! Good for you Kate. :-)
Genny said…
I love the writing tips/info you share here. Always great to stop by!
Jessie Oliveros said…
See Jane pluck. Dog drinks and falls. Rrring. Everlasting happiness.

But really, wordiness is my downfall, so I found out at my last crit group. I'm excited to see what advice you have on tightening.
Jessica Nelson said…
Thanks Genny. I try to find helpful stuff. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Well Jessie,
You tightened those pretty well! LOL!

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