Nancy's Books

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Trimming Excess Words

Today, I’m continuing my series on trimming excess words? Try these tips:

Read books in the same genre in which you’re writing to determine how and where longer descriptions work. Read a book first for the entertainment value. If you enjoyed it, read it again to analyze how long and short descriptions were woven into the story.
Read your work aloud and concentrate on the description. By reading aloud, your mind will be more attuned to awkward phrasing and will hone in on other mistakes, such as excessive use of words.
Avoid information dumping at the beginning of a story. Information dumping is offering too much information about a character or situation in the opening chapter. If you spend three pages telling why the character is upset, the reader will be even more upset. Long exposition slows and sometimes stops the action. Too much detail and backstory are not necessary and will fail to hook the reader.
Find useless words and zap them. Some useless words I am guilty of using are just, even, felt, like, really, seems, thought, very, that and more.
When my tummy turns queezy at the idea of cutting words, I remind myself that it’s not about the words, it’s about the story.
Next week, I’ll look at more ways to put your manuscript on a diet and achieve success.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
INSIGHT WRITING CONTEST—Deadline July 31, 2014. Categories are student short story,
general short story, and student poetry. Prizes range from $50 to $250. Winning entries will be published in Insight. You must be age 22 or under to enter the student categories. Short stories are limited to seven pages. Poetry is limited to one page.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Gotham Writers. It may be apocryphal, but the story goes that Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a short story that ran fewer than ten words. One version of the story places the bet at the famed Algonquin “round table.” Whether true or not, there is an actual bet-winning short story attributed to Hemingway:

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

You have to admit it’s pretty good. It builds, and there’s a whole world of background and emotion lurking beneath those words.

We would like to make a similar bet with you. Write a great short story in ten words or fewer. (You may use a title, but that goes into the word count.) Submit it to our contest. Entry is free. Winner of the bet gets a free Gotham class.

We did this contest last year, and here’s the winner:

Remnants of beard peppered her sink. He left nothing else.
A. Crossley Spencer
Summerfield, North Carolina

The Details:
·        Submit an original, unpublished 10-word short story.
·        Entries must be submitted online by midnight Eastern Time, May 18, 2015. Only online entries will be accepted.
·        Entry is free. Limit one entry per person.
·        Entry must consist of no more than 10 words. You may use a title but that goes into the word count. Longer entries will be disregarded.
·        Entry must be original and unpublished.
·        Entries will be judged on originality, quality, spelling, and grammar.
·        Gotham will post the winning entry at
·        The winner will be notified by June 3, 2015.
Deadline: May 18, 2015.
Submission guidelines at


  1. Thanks, Nancy. Good post. Also thanks for the contest link. I don't know if I'll enter, but it's a fun one to think about.

  2. I'm going to enter this one, just for the fun of it.