It’s important, in writing (and I suppose in life in general) to know what your weaknesses are. Deep down, we all know what those might be, whether or not we ever own up to them, in public at least. Right off the bat, I know that my biggest weakness in writing—and I mean all writing, whether it be text messages, this blog, notebooks, let alone anything creative I might ever try my hand at—is writing too. darn. much.
Sometimes flowery, elegant, heavily detailed prose is perfectly acceptable, even necessary. That’s true for sure, and that’s certainly the type of writing that comes to mind first when I hear the critique that I have overwritten anything. But stereotypical, stodgy overdone prose isn’t the only kind of writing that needs to be pared back. Extraneous explanation, overuse of adjectives, adverbs, nouns and even verbs can take power and coherency away from a paragraph, essay or book.
The other day, I happened upon this handy little internet application: The Writer’s Diet.
While not completely infallible, it’s a great tool for getting a sense of just how many unnecessary words are muddling up your message. As a test, I ran some query letters through and wouldn’t you know, the letters that I had originally found most effective, enticing and intriguing were the ones that passed the test of leanness. The letters that I had less interest in were the more “heart attack” prone of my queries. Obviously, this isn’t going to be true across the board, but for me, it’s helped. I restrain myself a lot on this blog, you know, and I still tend to go on and on at odd times. It’s a habit I’m trying to break, and I think my writing is improving because of it.
Is this something that’s helpful to you? Test it out! See where you fall. What sort of bandaids have you discovered for your own writing weaknesses?
P.S. I ran this blog entry through the Writer’s Diet Test, and it definitely came up a little flabby…I’m working on it, guys!