Be Clear, Be Concise

Be Clear, Be Concise

Once brainstorming and drafting have come to an end, the time for revision begins. Stephen King, in his book, On Writing, says, “Your job during or just after the first draft is to decide what something or somethings your book is about. Your job in the second draft – one of them anyway – is to make that something even more clear.”[i]

The time has come to clean up the mess.

During this revision stage, you may need to take several passes at your book. Clean up your ideas. Ask yourself: does this clearly communicate my intended point? Connect the dots from point A to point B, making sure that your thought process is clearly communicated rather than assumed on your part. Assume that your reader is intelligent, but do not assume they can read your mind.

Condense any repetitive thoughts. If you can say something in fewer words, do it. When I was a high school student, writing essays with minimum word count requirements, I learned the “art” of fluffing. I mastered the skill of saying the same thing in many ways, making my writing appear thoughtful and rich, all the while saying very little of substance. This served me well, as far as grades go, all the way into graduate school. However, later, as a professional writer, I had to unlearn this bad habit.

Putting myself into the mindset of a potential reader helps. As a reader, I have little time to waste on fluffy, repetitive books. And, as the years go by, I feel less and less guilty about setting down a book when it feels fluffed up. Repetition has its place when trying to help a reader settle down solidly with a concept. But, there is a vast difference between purposeful repetition and beating a dead horse in order to hit a word count.

Let me encourage you: write only the words that need to be written and not one word more. On assignments or projects which do have a word-count requirement, make each word count. Flesh out; do not fluff up.

During revisions, restructure when needed. Perhaps a sentence, paragraph, or chapter would be better suited somewhere else. Do a read-through from a 30,000-foot perspective. What’s the big picture? Do the pieces fit well together? Does the structure build securely upon itself? Is there a natural flow or does it feel forced?

Always keep your theme at the center of your focus. Your reader will likely not remember every word you wrote, but if you clearly and concisely share your intended message, keeping it forefront throughout your piece, you give them a much greater chance of remembering the heart.

[i] Stephen King, On Writing, pg 201

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