Posted in For Fellow Writers, Words Upon Words

Less is More

Well, here I am after a whole summer of no blogging. In my last post (in May!!) I mentioned wanting to get better at blogging more frequently and proceeded to do…not that. However, I have realized time and time again that we can do nothing to fix how we have acted in the past…but we can attempt to do better in the future.

This month and last I have thought a lot about different posts I’ve been wanting to write up about a plethora of topics. And then there was a day when I wondered if my blog needed a more distinct focus. Looking over the collection of blog posts I’ve made over the past two years, I have written everything from an account of my summer adventures, book reviews, writing updates on current and future projects, NaNoWriMo, mission trips…the list goes on and on. The only recurring theme is my desire to follow the Lord’s lead in my daily life and to continue writing the stories that are constantly buzzing in my head. And I recently decided…that that’s okay. So, my blog is a little bit random in both the timing of its posts and its topics. My personality is kinda like that, too–I like and do a variety of things at a variety of times. Why don’t we just go with it? 🙂

What I want to focus on today is a phrase I’ve been dwelling on for a number of months. Pretty much ever since my aunt edited Everlasting with me two years ago. Any of you who have read my work recently know that I have a habit of being…a little wordy. The more I write, the longer my novels get…which is a natural process–but to an extent. The first book I ever finished was perhaps around 60 pages. My second was closer to 100. Bridget’s Journey was 200 pages once printed and so on.

When I finished writing Everlasting in 2014 (I believe) it was around 125,000 words long. Aunt Andrea helped me get it down to 120,000, but regardless, when printed, it is close to 350 pages. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. When I hold that thick book in my hands, do I feel a sense of accomplishment? As in, I wrote ALL of this? Yes, of course, I do! But is there a time and place for it? Another yes.

When reading through the red notes Aunt Andrea sent me for Everlasting, the phrase she repeated most often was: remember, less is more. I’m not sure I fully appreciated what she was trying to tell me until long after I had published Everlasting. I know not all writers are like me, but I personally get very attached to certain scenes and paragraphs. And when someone (who is obviously outside of my head) shakes their head and says… “that’s a little convoluted” or “I think you could say the same thing in half the amount of words”…I take it as an offense. Or I just don’t want to let go. “But I worked hard to put those sentences together!” I think. Or, “But isn’t that such a great sentence?” or “doesn’t it sound so good, though?” Maybe. Maybe it does. But is it necessary to tell my story? Not always.

Why is the phrase Aunt Andrea had to repeat to me over and over so important? I think the main reason is this: when I’m trying to tell a story with a certain set of characters going through a certain set of circumstances, in my attempt to tell my story in a beautiful, exciting or descriptive way, the true message or meaning of my story (in part or as a whole) can get lost. Lost in all those words. For example, when I was describing Azalea’s wings transformation or her farewell speech to her friends at Fairy Meadow, the true awe of those wings or the poignancy of her speech can lose its shine if I go on and on either about things that don’t matter or about something I’ve basically already said ten times over. If I take twelve okay sentences to say something that I can write in three to five, then are my readers really understanding the importance of the main message?

I am a visual person and I like to be mentally prepared for anything I come across. When I’m reading a book, I like to know exactly where my characters are, how old they are, what they look like, etc. Only then do I feel at peace and ready to go on whatever adventure lay ahead of them because I can picture them clearly in my mind. Hence, that desire leaks into my own writing. So, I over-write.

When I finished writing Bridget Returns almost exactly one year ago, it was 136,000 words. But as a sequel to a 50,000 word novel, I knew it didn’t need to be longer than Everlasting. So I went back and edited in January. Now, I’m editing again. I started several different subplots when first writing this novel, but many either didn’t come to a conclusion or the conclusion wasn’t very satisfying. How much better could Bridget Returns be if I spent my time solely focusing on a main three to five plots instead of having scattered attention over ten to twelve? That’s what I’m hoping to find out.

I hope I’m slowly (quickly??) learning to apply the concept of “Less is More” in my writing life and that the next time I edit a book with Aunt Andrea, I will be better able to accept her comments and be willing to see what my story could be instead of what I think I want it be. Because it can always be better.

The more talk, the less truth. The wise measure their words. Proverbs 10:19

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