- Non-action actions. Watch out for boring verbs that slow both the action and the story. Examples: paused, waited, watched, listened, looked, thought (in the context of just "thinking" as opposed to relaying the actual thoughts), considered (same), contemplated (same). I bet you can come up with more.
- Meaningless time descriptors. Do these really add anything? "For a moment," "for awhile," "for some time," "for a beat," "for what seemed like forever," "endless/endlessly," "interminable." Often number 1 above is combined with number two. "He waited for some time" or "he paused for a moment."
- Actions that are too detailed. In my critique group we call this "walking the dog." Unless the minute details are important, write "I took the dog for a walk" rather than "I got out the leash. I put it on the dog. I opened the front door. I closed the door behind me. I started walking." Etc. What actions can your reader infer so that he can get to the meat of your story? Even the simple flip of a switch by a character can slow things down if you don't need it.
- Double-dipping. Once you describe something in detail, don't do it again. You can use a keyword to remind the reader--i.e. "the glowing orb," but otherwise assume the reader got it the first time.
07 December 2008
Tips for Snips
How do you make a short story "tight"? How do you keep in the bits you need and cut out the bits you don't? It's not as easy as it seems, but here's a few ideas on places where it is often a good idea to cut.