Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Verbose

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Verbose can be described as using too many words. Sometimes I have a tendency to do this, especially in the first draft of my story when all I care about is getting the plot out. But, in writing, or even speaking for that matter, all words are valuable and must be chosen specifically for the purpose.

Word choice is a very important element when it comes to telling the story. Too many words may come off as passive or may even make the reader feel overwhelmed because of all the information they're receiving. It's okay to be a bit verbose in the first draft, but during the numerous edits that occurs afterwards, each word/sentence has to be seen to have a purpose.

When it comes to eliminating verbose writing:
  1. Eliminate unnecessary information. What background information is necessary and which is just filler. Don't overload the reader.
  2. Eliminate unnecessary words, this can include contractions (especially when writing for the teen audience). Knowing your audience plays a lot with this. I don't know any teen who doesn't contract as many words as they can, so a story that has too many "it is" or "will not" may seem a bit snobbish and dull.
  3. Go through the manuscript and eliminate as many "that"'s as possible. You'll be surprised at how many times "that" is just a filler and not really serving a purpose.
  4. Go through the manuscript and eliminate as many adverbs as possible... the deadly "ly" words. See if the sentence can be explained in any other way.
Being verbose is not necessarily a bad thing, but when writing all words should have a purpose and not be a filler.

So,  do you have a problem with being verbose? What do you do to get rid of your excess words?


Karen Jones Gowen said...

This is a helpful list! I'd say that a 100K manuscript should have 1/4 of the words cut before even thinking about submitting.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't use a lot of extra description, but the little extra words get me.

Kate Larkindale said...

I'm getting better, I have to say. Writing a lot of short fiction has made me a lot more careful about word usage. Nothing like a word limit to tighten up your prose.

In my new book, in the first draft, I only allowed myself 2K per chapter which helped keep things tight. I've expanded a little now, with needing to add things in for later, but by limiting myself in the first place, I started with something pretty lean.

Nate Wilson said...

1) Yes.
2) I edit.

Note: To get down to such concise answers, I had to edit this comment approximately 17.3 times. Originally, it was half the length of the OED. (That might be a slight exaggeration, but I've been known to stretch the truth a little. I've also been known to stretch comments far beyond their ideal length. Luckily, this one I kept short.)

Alleged Author said...

Unfortunately, I am one of those people who suffers from UNDER-verbose-ness (I so made that word up). I wish I could utilize words better. If I was able to, I could reach my word counts! :P

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