Recently on Facebook, I saw a post that was shared hundreds of times called THE DECLUTTER CHALLENGE, a 30-day challenge to get rid of clutter and stuff in your life. A random sampling of the days’ tasks includes: purging 2 kitchen cabinets (day 7); cleaning out your wallet (day 9) and your purse ( day 10); cleaning out the freezer ( day 18); donating unused toys ( day 25). The challenge ends on day thirty with the simple task of CLEAN. I guess what you clean is up to you, but I took it to mean, clean your house.
This challenge, naturally, got me to thinking about how I could declutter my writing. All writers have catch words or phrases they like to use, especially when writing dialogue. If we actually wrote how we spoke, the readers would be bored out of their gourds. For instance, would you seriously want to spend money on a book where every dialogue started like this:
#1. Hey, Bill. How are you?
#2. Fine, Jim. How are you?
#3. Can’t complain. How’s the family?
#4. Doing well. Yours?
#5. Same, same. So how, about those Red Sox?…
you get the idea. This is drivel. We may speak like this in real life, but in fiction, it’s a death knoll.
So that’s one way to declutter your work: check the dialogue. Can you get the idea across without all the folderol of “hi, how you doing’s?”
Another way I know I personally clutter up my writing is by using too many extraneous words to convey my thoughts. A quick search of my current work in progress yielded this:
the use of THAT – 89 times
the use of To her/to him/ for her/for him -56 times
the use of adverbs ( the bane of my writing existence) 91 times. EEK!
I really need to work on decluttering these words, don’t I! Hee hee
Other things that writers should declutter are phrases like “seemed to,” “tried to,” “began to.” Writing is much stronger and moves quicker when sentences are declarations and use an active tense.
For example: Her natural, spicy scent seemed to surround her body.
Better example: Her natural, spicy scent of ginger and peach, surrounded her.
Other words that can probably be eliminated a fair amount of time and still allow the sentence to convey what it needs to are:
move, push, reach, bring, pull, went, brought, press and came( to denote going or coming from somewhere)
It’s a good practice to utilize the SEARCH for options in your word processing program to nit pick and eliminate words you use excessively after your first draft is written. This will make the editing process more about the story line and capturing what you intended to say instead of needing to remove excess words.
Oh, about that 30-day Declutter challenge. yeah, I survived for three days. Then I was exhausted. Maybe I should develop a 12 month declutter challenge. You know…do one thing a month instead of 30 in 30 days? Thoughts? LOL
When I’m not decluttering my life and my writing, you can find me here: