Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tight-Wad Tuesdays

I've always been fond of Tuesdays. Where I grew up there was a cheap theater where movies cost $2.00. But on Tight-Wad Tuesday, as they called it, movies only cost one. :)

Well, today being Tuesday, I thought I'd visit the idea of economy of words, rather than money. During my high school years, my primary literary focus was on poetry. I loved it. It taught me to whittle down my thoughts and words to the bare bones. And I can still remember my teacher saying, "Show, don't tell!" and cluttering my papers with red penned circles and the words, "omit" written off to the side.

Here's a sampling of two of my poems, which I wrote at the tender age of fifteen, both assigned to 'show' silence.


I sit in the cool
dark of our old barn,
and watch the dust
move like glitter
through the sun--
shining between
torn shingles Dad
always meant to fix.

Red Rooster

I rushed in late --
my hands aching from
the sudden warmth.
"I put all the hay in that
far corner, Sir -- just the
way you wanted."

My breath echoed.

I sat next to my
mother at the
other end of our table
and stared at the
red rooster on the
kitchen wallpaper.

I remember draft after draft of these poems, all with the same critique to the side. "Show don't tell!" "Omit!" "Bad Word Choice!" These poems are fragments compared to the first drafts--but even now, after all these years, I see where I can trim even more. Or perhaps insert a more powerful word choice.

Although I haven't written much poetry lately, the same rules apply to our WIP's as we embark on edits, and re-edits and more edits. Word economy, and making sure each word counts is a valuable and vital skill. Writer Janice Hardy, showcased this principle by trimming down a page of her published book (which had already undergone several edits) and omitting needless words. It's awesome, check it out!

I'll leave you now with a word from Shakespeare:

"Therefore, if brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief"

Happy Tight-Wad Tuesday Everyone and if you're in the throws of editing - Good Luck!!



Nick Wilford said...

I think those poems are great - they really capture a moment. I can't see how to make them shorter! This is something I always need to look at as I tend to go on a bit.

Melissa Sarno said...

I like your poems and your tip. I just finished revising a manuscript and threw out SO MANY unnecessary words. It felt good.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

That's what I love about flash fiction, hint fiction, Twitter fiction - how so few words can provide so much story/meaning/emotion. :)

Emily R. King said...

I wish I could write poetry. I'm not very good at it, but every once in a while I give it a go. Thanks for sharing your poems!

Kim said...

Sara - This reminds me of the scene from A River Runs Through It when Norman's father keeps having him shorten his story...
And the poems are really lovely.
I will check out that link...

Angela Brown said...

Those poens are very beautiful. As much as economy of words is important when wrting/editing a novel, it is especially important for short stories. Very few words to create a full story, have to use economy of words.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Tightwad Tuesday. Love it. Regular high school classes don't prepare us to be brief--not when teachers assign word counts and all you do is fluff your piece. Really bad for business writing, too.

Chad Morris said...

Awesome Sara. I just love that first poem (I like the other one as well, I wouldn't want it to get jealous)

McKenzie McCann said...

Ha ha, you were one of those poets who messed around with line breaks. x3 They're really pretty good. Much better than poems from kids in my class.

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