Tight Writing

Have you ever had an editor tell you to tighten your writing?

When I submitted my first novel to several publishers, a couple of them came back with the comment that it was not tight enough for them. I had no clue what they meant, and in those days the Internet was still in its infancy. I couldn’t simply Google “tight writing” and find out.

I only really started to understand when I wrote articles for eHow.com. Every piece was edited prior to publication, and some of those copy editors were extremely helpful and kind. I learned a lot from them. When my novel “Redneck P.I.” was accepted by Uncial Press, my editor Jude added to my knowledge.

Tight writing is a term used to describe writing so that every word counts and no words are unnecessary. This is loose–here is a tighter version–
Tight writing means make every word count.
Everyone uses certain words more than is necessary. Mine are “that” and “disappeared”. While editing my work, I now use the “search and replace” application in Word to locate and change them. Often they are totally unnecessary and removing them tightens the writing.
Louis L’Amour is one of my favorite authors, and a very great writer. His word is “suddenly” and whenever I read a piece he wrote I usually find if “suddenly” was taken out, the effect of the sentence wouldn’t change.

Strong Verbs–Use active verbs and strong nouns and avoid passive voice. Advice like this was difficult for me to understand at first, but I know now what it means. Instead of writing: A car was stopped by a police officer in front of them. It should be:
A police officer stopped the car in front of them. (Subject-verb-object).
Also, a good writer should never use “there were, they are, etc.”
There were three people in the carshould be–Three people occupied the car. 

Adverbs–Famous and successful writers of the past used adverbs and adjectives and their work included long, descriptive passages. Today’s reader prefers action, and publishers consider excessive use of adverbs and adjectives to be the mark of an amateur. Do not use “The sun shone warmly.” Everyone knows the sun is warm.

Redundancy–This describes the use of two or more words when you only need one, as in armed gunman, blend together, and round in shape. Remove one of the redundant words to tighten your work.

I’m no expert, but I’m learning, and I want to be as good as I possibly can.

Tight writing comes with practice and editing. Write your story first and go back and edit, edit, edit to get it as good as you possibly can.

2 thoughts on “Tight Writing

  1. Thanks for your informative post about “tightening.” I have an edit checklist that includes the items you mentioned, and it has been a helpful tool in my final edits. Every time I see a new hint, I add it to the file. It's been very helpful. (Ooops. “Very” is one of my words!)
    Sandy's Blog

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