Charlie Laidlaw is an author and tutor at Creating Writers
You’re writing a book, and one of the first things to learn is that every word carries weight.
Some will have more weight than others, and you have to decide whether a particular word is necessary or not.
As a writer you are, almost by definition, intelligent and know lots of words. But don’t try to beat your reader over the head with your erudition.
If a very long or unfamiliar word is necessary to your narrative or dialogue, okay. But readers don’t like to keep reading words that they’re unfamiliar with. They don’t like to feel that the writer is showing off or being condescending.
In terms of weight, there’s no point saying that “she was very beautiful.” That carries no meaning or narrative purpose and “very” is irrelevant. The reader will want to know: in what way was she beautiful? Why is this important?
“The sun slipped slowly over the horizon.”
Okay, but it’s being lazy with words. Be precise. We know that the sun sets slowly. It’s been setting at the same speed for millions of years.
“The cars outside were loudly blaring their horns.”
If they’re blaring their horns, of course it’s loud! Unless it’s your intention – for example, if your narrator is a small child – don’t state the obvious. At best, it comes across as lazy; at worst, you lose your reader’s confidence.
Remember Stephen King’s advice: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” although that could equally apply to adjectives. For example:
“Let me in!” she said fiercely.
“Let’s go for a walk,” she said compassionately.
Both fiercely and compassionately might be okay, but you have to challenge the weight they carry and whether they are necessary.
If you need help getting started on your writing journey, Creating Writers has two online creative writing courses, an introductory course and our flagship Diploma course.
It’s an intensive course, with lots of face-to-face tuition. It also comes with a real qualification at the end of it.
That could not only kick-start your writing career but provide you with a valuable qualification for your resume.
Our courses are intended to give you the confidence and skills to understand what makes great writing. On the Diploma course, we’ll also get you started on your novel.
For more information, you can contact us here.
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