Writing Strategies: Long-winded or short and sweet?

24 Jan

I read Marilyn’s post on Jan 22 with a bit of jealousy–I never have anything to cut when I write. This is not because everything is perfect as it flows from brain to keyboard. I have plenty of stuff I have to change, but I never get to cut anything because I write short. So short that most of my editing involves adding text, rather than removing it.

When I write out a scene, it’s pretty skeletal–just a structure with some spatial cues and dialogue. I’m always missing the descriptive “meat” of a scene because I’m so focused on what the characters are thinking that I forget that writing a scene actually involves, well, a scene.

In order to help me add those descriptive details that allow readers to situate themselves, I usually run through the five senses–i.e., what is the character seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or touching? Thinking about the senses allows me to keep the scene focused on the character–rather than some omniscient narrator–but still provide a foundation upon which to construct the emotional and physical action.

I’ve noticed that when I read, I tend to skip through descriptive paragraphs, going straight for the dialogue and the characters. I’m much more interested in what the heck the heroine is doing in the middle of the field than in the fact that the sky is gray and threatening. I want to get right to the action.

But that means that sometimes when I write, I leave my poor characters without much of a setting. So, my tip is to analyze how you read in order to improve your writing. And if you write short and underdevelop the scenery, try the five senses approach to help you add descriptive detail.

One Response to “Writing Strategies: Long-winded or short and sweet?”

  1. mywithershins January 24, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    I do have a tendency to foam at the mouth and often have to pare back my descriptions. I like the five senses idea. Thanks for the advice.

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