Shorten it by 10%

A writing tip from David Jauss

Writers should write as if they’ll be charged, not paid, by the word. After you’ve written a draft you consider close to “finished,” pretend that an editor has offered to publish it, provided you shorten it by 10%. After you do that, pretend the editor insists you cut another 10%. Repeat this process until there isn’t a word that can be cut without damaging the whole. Then your work is ready to submit.

[The judges observe that Dr. Jauss, given 250 words to share his tip, used only 73. We're putting the rest on his account.]

David Jauss is the author of three story collections, including Black Maps, the winner of the AWP Award for Short Fiction, and the forthcoming Glossolalia: New and Selected Stories; two poetry collections, and the essay collection On Writing Fiction. He has also edited three anthologies, most recently Words Overflown by Stars. He teaches at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and in the low-residency MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

The pieces of a satisfying novel or story seem to fit together so effortlessly, so seamlessly, that it's easy to find yourself wondering, How on earth did the author do this?" The answer is simple: He sat alone at his desk, considered an array of options, and made smart, careful choices.

In On Writing Fiction, award-winning author and respected creative writing professor David Jauss offers practical information and advice that will help you make smart creative and technical decisions about such topics as:

Writing prose with syntax and rhythm to create a "soundtrack" for the narrative

Choosing the right point of view to create the appropriate degree of "distance" between your characters and the reader

Harnessing the power of contradiction in the creative process

In one thought-provoking essay after another, Jauss sorts through unique fiction-writing conundrums, including how to create those exquisite intersections between truth and fabrication that make all great works of fiction so much more resonant than fiction that follows the "write what you know" approach that's so often used.

Click on the cover to visit the book's Amazon page.


Wendy said...

I never cease to be amazed at how many bits of fluff I can trim from my writing. This is a great bit of advice!

Jodi Paloni said...

I highly recommend Dave Jauss's craft book, 'Alone With All That Could Happen.' I've read several of the essays more than once and always gain something new.