Then God said: "Let there be light," and there was light.
Hello! Maureen Pratt here with my first CAN Blog post. I've been asked to write once a month about writing – one of my favorite topics! Today, I'm going to start off with a topic that sometimes confounds many writers – "writing short." As I'm the author of a 600-word syndicated, international column, I'm steeped in this style with each piece I file. And, more than ever before, we use this kind of writing, especially on the Internet. But it can be so difficult to adapt "big" thoughts into "few" words (for us…the Author of the Bible did it so beautifully!) Here are some suggestions for better, pithier posts and paragraphs:
1. Narrow the topic and narrow some more; writing short requires acute specificity. Write a "slug line" – a one-word summary of the piece, and then build on it for the body of the work.
2. Use three specific segments to form the piece. Beginning middle, and end (oh, yes, high school composition class had its value!) Got subplots/sub-thoughts? Maybe they belong in a separate article.
3. Descriptive verbs and nouns sparingly spiced with adjectives, help keep length short. Also, invent words to describe more complex ideas. In a recent column I filed about the phenomenon of the "weekend warrior," I encouraged my readers to "warrior on," once I introduced a physician's suggestions for how middle aged football-player wanna bes might avoid injury). Those two words took the place of what could have been a longer, less effective exhortation.
4. Edit, edit, and edit some more. I always ask myself, "Is this necessary?" "Could this be another column?" "Does this make sense?"
To ge the rhythm of writing short, try fitting your words into the melody of a song. Or, distill your thoughts into a VERY limited number of words. Try to use three words to describe yourself. FIve words to describe the activity on a school playground. Or, how about seven words to pitch your latest story?
Onward to next month!