Monday, May 12, 2014

Word Verbosity

Have you ever hard the phrase, “If I had more time, it would be shorter?”

I tried looking up who the quote came from, but it looks like it’s attributed to quite a few people.  I had originally thought it was from Mark Twain. 

It’s a phrase that I never quite understood.  Most of my first drafts are bare bones.  I have the structure, but there’s no furnishings.  It takes me two or three more drafts to put the actual details into the story.  Which is why my first draft is usually hovering just above 50,000, but once I get to a finished MS, It’s usually about 75,000. 

But I had a recent experience where I finally realized what this meant.  I had to write something nonfiction, something important, and I didn’t have a lot of time.  In fact, I only had about an hour and a half before I had to submit it.  It took me about that long just to write it.  However, I noticed something strange.

As I’m trying to get all of my ideas down, and sound professional, my writing became incredibly verbose.  All of a sudden, I was using five or six words to describe something that only needed one or two. 

And the words I used!

It became harder and harder to read because the words I used were longer and less common.  Maybe it’s because I felt like it needed to sound professional.  Maybe because I didn’t have time to think of a better word.  Either way, once I finished, I knew that it was way over the top.  The writing wasn’t thought through, and it showed. 

When writing a novel, I work on getting the story down.  I don’t care about the words, the tone, anything else.  Most of the time that comes naturally.  But when I’m writing to impress?

Whew.  I need to give myself more time to edit.

How about the rest of you?  Do you have to add or cut after you write a first draft?