Do you want to know what happens next? Do you love looking up from a book and realizing you’re one hundred pages in and haven’t blinked? Holy shit, is it tomorrow already?
Here is the fifth and final post of a five part series on simple (but maybe not so obvious) tips to make our stories better.
Today’s topic is Fast Flowing Writing.
I don’t think this will come as a shock to you, but I read books because I love stories.
I love words and good writing too, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t love them when they stand between me and the next part of the story. I think that oftentimes authors get so carried away with crafting beautiful prose that they forget why readers are there in the first place.
To get the right balance of fast flowing words and enough description is like walking a fine line stretched between two buildings (a tight rope…get it?). All the classic advice is important to listen to: make every word count, revision = first draft minus 10%, watch your use of adjectives and adverbs (if you find yourself using them too much you probably need a stronger verb/noun/comparison – think run fast vs. sprint, he was a really big guy vs. he was a bear). But there’s a difference between bare bones prose and a fast read. They’re both the same length, but one is missing something.
I’m not a huge fan of the descriptions ‘tight prose’ or ‘tight writing.’ The meaning behind the phrase is true, but the word ‘tight’ to describe writing just doesn’t work.
Good writing is writing that is fast flowing. Like a river (I just came up with that on my own). Some writing can be like a creek, or like a lake. Some can be like a waterfall. Creeks and lakes are beautiful, but slow – more fit for a leisurely float than a joyride. And waterfalls are more fun than creeks or lakes, but they move pretty damn fast and you’re going to miss a lot on your way down.
Rivers are great, though. They have rapids that will make your heart race, beautiful scenes on either side, every once in a while a tributary will speed them up (side plot or converging characters, maybe?), and no matter what, even while you’re admiring the view, you’re still being swept forward. So take out the extra words and sentences and make sure you’re moving. If there are 9 sentences in your paragraph you can probably improve it by taking one out and making it 8. Turn a creek into a river, but be careful you don’t take it too fast or you’ll drop over the edge and miss something while you fall.
And that’s why you should write well, but not necessarily tightly. To me ‘tightly’ implies a lack of beauty, and just because your writing flows fast doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.
So write like a river. And remember: I just made that analogy up on my own, nobody else has ever said it before, and you heard it here first.
Disclaimer: Some people prefer long, meandering prose, and it definitely has a place in certain books. Just make sure you understand both sides of the story.
How do you prefer to write? Fast-paced? Long descriptions? Somewhere in between? A word at a time during commercial breaks?