Deja Vu Blogfest – The key to becoming a skilled writer!

Welcome everyone! Here is a blogpost I wrote a year or so ago. Hope you enjoy it!

Casey McCormick inspired me to tighten my writing. Read her wonderful posts. Part one. Part Two. Part Three.

Many times as writers, we hear that one of the most important things to do when revising is to cut, cut, cut. In our heads we know this is trueBut sometimes, especially if it’s our first novel, it’s really hard to find the words to cut because we like all of them. Our words are like precious gems.

If we’re lucky, we might stumble upon a very helpful list of words to cut that includes words like: like, that, just, very, actually, started to, seemed to, really, exactly…the list goes on. The good thing is that after writing for some time, you start to automatically exclude those words.

After your first novel, you learn to write tighter. Meaning, you can write the same sentence using less words. And not only do you use less words, but the words you use are stronger, more powerful. As you will read many times over, it is important for writers to use strong verbs to eliminate adverbs and use carefully chosen words to elicit an emotion response in your reader.

Yes, words are a powerful tool.

In our writingwords should create a mental image so in the reader’s mind there is a continually running movie. I think the reason writers keep writing is because they are in love with words. To writers, words are like a toy in the hands of a toddler and we slobber all over them. But eventually we grow up and realize that one special toy means much more to us than a toy chest full of junk.

After tightening my prose, I could have written this post in about five seconds. Here is my final version:

As writers, cut, cut, cut: like, that, just, very, actually, started to, seemed to,really, exactly. Write the same sentence using less words. Strong verbs elicit emotion. Create a mental image.

Gosh, but really, why stop?

As writers, cut, cut, cut: like, that, just, very, actually, started to, seemed to, really, exactly. Write the same sentence using less words. Strong verbs elicit emotion. Create a mental image.

I think I got it narrowed down.

Cut. Write less words. Strong verbs elicit emotion.

But this tightening thing is really addicting.

Cut. Write less words. Strong verbs elicit emotion.

Okay, so here is my polished, tightened version.

Write words.

But wait. One more quick edit.

Write words.

Finally. Phew. Editing is hard work. And the key to becoming a better writer is….


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55 Responses to Deja Vu Blogfest – The key to becoming a skilled writer!

  1. Carole Anne Carr December 16, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Used to do this with my poetry until all that remained was a mangled scrap, but once I realised what I was writing had little value,and improved, the cutting process left me with a reasonably good poem. Now I’m doing this to my prose, at the beginning of my next book, heaven help me. :0)

  2. Susan Sipal December 16, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Love this, Laura! And I must have missed it the first time around, so glad to read it now.

    I’ve got a long list of words, including all those you listed, that I try to cut from my manuscript, and another that I consider weak and I try to strengthen. I love the search feature in Word for this because sometimes they just sneak out of my sight if I’m caught up in the story.

  3. PK Hrezo December 16, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    lol… cute!! And so true. It took me awhile to learn about redundancy and excess. But gosh it makes all the difference!

  4. Natalie Aguirre December 16, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    This is a great post. I somehow missed Casey’s series so I’m going to go back and read hers too. Cutting words can really cut a too long word count and make your manuscript read better.

  5. Dianne Salerni December 16, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    Ahem, cutting words CAN get addictive! I get so excited, seeing that word count come down from its fat, bloated state that sometimes I get carried away …

    The trick is to cut away the unnecessary chatter, but leave what makes your writing — and the story — unique.

  6. Sarah Fine December 16, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    This post is AWESOME. I’d say more, but then I’d start feeling the need to cross words out. So I’ll just say: thanks.

  7. Creepy Query Girl December 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    lol, sweet, informative and to the point, you know, after all the cutting:) lol

    • Laura December 16, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      I should have included another post of mine that talks about the danger of too much cutting. We can delete the fun and the voice right out of our work if we’re not careful. It takes time but we eventually learn what stuff needs to go and what needs to be cut. And crit partners help of course! 🙂

  8. Vicki Rocho December 16, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    Awesome! Can I borrow your editing scalpel to my WIP?

  9. Laura Marcella December 16, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    Ahahaha, awesome presentation for this post! Have a great weekend, Laura. 🙂

  10. Stina Lindenblatt December 16, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    I found using Margie Lawson’s EDITS system really helps me here. When I read through my sentences as a whole, I don’t notice the extra words, but when I tear them apart and analyze them, it’s amazing how many unnecessary little words I’m able to cut. 🙂

  11. Heather Sunseri December 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Love it! So funny!

  12. DL Hammons December 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    I loved this!!! You illustrate proper word economy perfectly, but at the same time subtely wink at the dangers of going too far. Excellent post! Thank you so much for taking part in our blogfest and making today so special!! 🙂

  13. Ciara Knight December 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Nice to meet you, Laura. I’m a new follower via the blog hop. Loved this! It is hysterical.

  14. christine danek December 16, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Love this and very true. It has taken me a long time to figure this out.

  15. Donna K. Weaver December 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    This is brilliant!

    Dang, I wish I was clever.

  16. April Plummer December 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    That was a great post and proof of just how easy it is to overwrite, oversimplify our writing. I will never forget my drafts going to my AP Lit teacher. Thank God she let us rewrite! Red slashes everywhere!

  17. Margo Kelly December 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    Oh. My.

    I love love love this post!


  18. Becky Povich December 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    VERY funny! Great to meet you in this blogfest.

  19. Alex J. Cavanaugh December 16, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    That was hilarious!!!

  20. Coleen Patrick December 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    So funny, but so true! 🙂

  21. Lydia K December 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    BRILLLIANT! So glad you reposted this. This is truly one of your most genius posts!

  22. Julie Flanders December 16, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Hi, Laura! Just discovered your blog through the Deja Vu fest and I’m so glad I did. This post totally cracked me up, so clever! Great to meet you. 🙂

    • Laura December 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      Thanks everyone! I’ve been to breakfast with my dad! I’ll be around today and this weekend!

  23. Leigh Moore December 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    LOL! Laura, you crack me up. But it’s very true: to be a writer, one must write. :o) And this made me think of my convos w/hubs. He’ll complain I’m not listening. My response: You use a lot of words. I’m listening to the ones i need to hear. 😀 <3

  24. Allison December 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    hahaha. Love this. Thanks for the repost!

  25. Scarlett December 16, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    Funny, Funny stuff! Enjoyed the Write!

  26. Ms. Persevere December 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    This got the first ‘lol’ from me. Is this true? How do you learn this? I never knew there was a true art to ‘writing’. I always thought it was just a matter of getting the thoughts out of your head and onto the paper. Wow…I have a long way to go and a lot of learning to do.

  27. shari green December 16, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    LOL, this is awesome. Love it!

  28. Margo Berendsen December 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    Very humorous way to make a point! But still, I liked the toy analogy.

  29. Pearson Report December 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    That was fantastic!

    I’m a rambler…but also a cutter – the trick is knowing when to be the rambler and when to cut!

    A great Do-Over post!


  30. Lynn Kelley December 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Love this post, Laura! What a great example to use for a writing class! And then the way it’s exaggerated at the end is such a fun twist. But we get the message loud and clear: Write! I’m glad you reposted this.

  31. R.A.Desilets December 16, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Oh my goodness, I loved this! ^_^ Fantastic re-post!!

  32. Commutinggirl December 16, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Loved this post! It made me smile, thank you for sharing!
    Will turn to it once I need to go through my first editing stage 🙂

  33. Jennifer Shirk December 16, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    Ha! That was an excellent post and example. 🙂

  34. Heather Day Gilbert December 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    Loved this! Pithy post! And though I hate editing/revising, it’s a necessary evil to get where we’re going as writers. Nice to meet you through Deja Vu.

  35. Nisa Swineford December 16, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    Haha! I love this post. What a cute way of showing how few words we actually need. Did I mention I love it? Oops. Maybe I should have cut, cut, cut some words out of this comment…

  36. Christy Evers December 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    LOL! You crack me up. I’ve recently been thinking about this as I’m trying to talk myself into making cuts on my first chapter in my current WIP.

    This inspires me. :0)

  37. Yvonne Lewis December 16, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    A most wonderful post I found it exscellent to read.


  38. Krispy December 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm #

    Great, visual way to make a point!

  39. Jemi Fraser December 17, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    Love! 🙂

  40. Julie Hedlund December 17, 2011 at 1:10 am #

    In one word – awesome! 🙂

  41. Botanist December 17, 2011 at 3:32 am #

    LOL! So true, and yet one of your comments above is also true – there’s danger in cutting the heart and soul out your writing.

    Why is it that every wise proverb out there seems to have its equally wise opposite?

  42. Nancy S. Thompson December 17, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    I love this post! it’s so true. I recently read a passage in Donald Maass’s book “Writing the Breakout Novel” where he says writers should focus on nouns and verbs primarily. If you use strong enough nouns and verbs, adjectives, and especially adverbs, are completely unnecessary. ie – The streets smelled of manure. Pretty evocative, huh? And it’s just nouns and verbs.

  43. Gloria Richard December 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    Clever! Thrilled to find this post on the Deja Vu Blogfest.

    What? Sentence frags don’t count as tightened prose?


    I’ll be back.

  44. Hywela Lyn December 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    What a clever post. I find it very hard to cut out words I’ve slaved over for days, months, years! But it is so necesary and the result is always tighter and better, but it can be overdone. (That’s where good crit partners and editors are so valuable! 🙂 )

  45. Amie Kaufman December 18, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    Oh, I adore it, and you always make me laugh!

  46. Sophia Chang December 18, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    lolol you really got me there

    And on that note, I’m going to take the advice and stop surfing blogs for much longer 🙂

    (I just love this blogfest)

  47. Juliann Wetz December 18, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    Oh, I really, really, really like this. I started to say that I liked it very much and am oh so very extremely glad you re-posted this so I had a chance to read it, but actually what I meant when all was said and done is: I really, really, really like this post.

  48. Sarah Pearson December 19, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    An entertaining post, that leads to the best advice of all 🙂

  49. Theresa Milstein December 19, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Excellent. You know you’ve written a successful post when the final edit generates more comments than the total word count and each comment is longer than the edited post!

  50. The Raven December 19, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    This is an excellent example of what editors do for a living. Each word on the page should justify its existence. Cull the weak from the herd.

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