by Ruby Johnson
Recently, I attended a workshop with Nikki Duncan on “Writing Tight to Improve Pacing and Add Power." I always take one sheet of paper to record a few pointers I might get from a workshop. Fortunately, Nikki provided handouts. That one sheet of paper was covered with notes on both sides.
Defining Writing Tight
Her definition of writing tight is “the ability to weave multiple purposes into a scene.” But what does it really mean if someone says you need to tighten up your writing? Nikki says it could be something as simple as using too many unnecessary words. The scene could be too slow, or too long making the reader want to skim, could have empty and meaningless dialogue, or the writer goes off on a tangent. Limiting paragraphs to 3-5 sentences is suggested.
Recognize Redundant Words
Writing tight takes practice with the ability to recognize redundant words and replace them with better words. But it also takes the ability to project the tone of your book by using words that reflect the setting and the character. She calls these theme words.
Develop a List of Theme Words
She gave several examples including some for Her Miracle Man which is a Christmas book. They are: tree lot, snow angel, reflections, loss miracles, cookies, rescue, hope, lights, memories, and family.
Nikki suggests by making a list of theme words, you will give thought to your word choices in every sentence and they will help convey that feeling throughout your book. She says to think of them as your character /book vocabulary.
Get Rid of Trash Words
And finally, she advises that a writer go through his/her manuscript and get rid of trash words. You know those words-all the -ly words, -ish constructions, to be verbs etc.
While her workshop includes much more content than discussed here, doing these few things will improve your work and help you to write tight.
This workshop is one of the best I’ve attended in quite some time and if you see Nikki’s name on a program with this topic, sign up for it right away.
To learn more about Nikki and her books visit her website: nikkiduncan.com. and facebook.com/Nikki Duncan. Her two latest books Criminal Promises and Illicit Intuitions are available from Amazon.com.