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The life-changing magic of tidying up (your drafts)

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Minimalism isn’t just effective for your household and your sanity; it can help your writing, too.


-Open your latest draft and copy a portion – a paragraph, a page, or a chapter – into a new document.

-Now eliminate one word in each sentence of the pasted draft. (You may have to revise a few to preserve clarity, and that’s OK.)

-Next, trim two syllables from each sentence. (Did you really need to say “raven tresses” when “dark hair” would convey the same meaning?)

-Interrogate your modifiers: Does she “tend to sing in the mornings,” or can she just “sing in the morning?” Is saying that “he likes to call her late at night” worth the extra words compared to “he calls her late at night?”

-Scout for places where you filter action through your narrator versus simply letting the action occur. “She saw the truck slam into the wall” is much less impactful than “The truck slammed into the wall.” Why waste readers’ time with “he felt the warm summer sun on his shoulders” when you could just say “the summer sun warmed his shoulders?”

Now compare the original to your new, lean-and-clean draft. Which do you prefer?