If each word cost a dollar ...
Let's say each word you write costs you a dollar.
Your natural response would most likely be, 'I want to save money.'
Inflation might bring this up to $5 in a few years' time. Then you'd be very economical.
Now I know that when we're in the heat of creation on that first draft, we're encouraged to get it all out on the page - blah on without restrictions - so we're going to spend a lot of money on those words. And I think that's OK because, if I can get lyrical here, our creativity is richly endowed and can afford it.
But when it comes to editing back, honing our story to perfection, each word matters and has to earn that dollar or five dollars to deserve its place in your story. And if you remember that each word is costing you, you will be ambitious about cutting out the ones that don't serve the purpose so you can save 'money'.
Let's take an example: here's something I wrote recently as part of the book I'm writing about my Mom. It's definitely first draft stuff. Here goes:
Whenever we went to the beach, Mom would always wear her palm frond hat she got in Fiji when we came over on the boat from America. Over time, it got faded and crisp, those fronds were sticking out all over the place and the little bird that used to nestle on the side was long gone, blown away one day with the tidal winds. She also wore a bathing suit with a funny skirt that used to float about her as she waded into the water and along with the hat she looked like some kind of exotic bird.
That's 100 words and at, say, one dollar a word, that passage has cost me $100. Way too dear. So now I take to this passage with a financier's eye and cut back to what I can afford, and what my story actually needs to move it along:
Mom had a faded palm frond hat she wore to the beach and a bathing suit with a skirt that floated about her like some exotic bird's plumage as she waded into the water.
33 words, $33 dollars, and I've saved $67. The sentence isn't quite to final draft stage but you see what I mean.
Does the reader really need to know that the hat came from Fiji, bought while we were on a boat? This information, in fact, is covered earlier in the story, and we don't need to know about the bird that once decorated the hat. What is important is the hat and the bathing suit and the image of Mom as some kind of weird bird.
Words can cost us dearly, not in monetary terms, but because too many of them can hold up action. We have to be ruthless when we're editing. Think economy, saving money, working to a budget, making every dollar count.
Every word need to be there for a reason. Every word is there to serve the story and move it along because the story is everything.
Leave a Reply.