As lives get busier and attention spans get shorter, people have increasingly less time to spare for fluffy, overblown writing, and aspiring writers have their work cut out for them. Here are ways to pare your words down for maximum efficacy.
Easy up on the adjectives
When cooking up a story, think of adjectives as exotic spices – a little can add interesting flavour to your work, too much can make it unpalatable. And just as you would taste-test a recipe to see how it feels in your mouth, read your work aloud. If it sounds clunky when you're reciting the words, it probably reads that way, so go back in and chop off those adjectives.
“Said” is best
It's quite tempting to use a bunch of fancy verbs to describe how someone is speaking, but more often than not, it leads to a whole lot of redundancies. Particularly if you're writing magazine articles and not a pulpy romance novel, it's better to skip the “she gushed” “he grumbled” “they mumbled” and use “said” for all attribution.
Give your writing a chill pill
No matter how thrilling the development, unless you're composing flyers for a pop-up sale, lose the exclamation marks. It's just as annoying as reading an entire piece in All Caps. If you want to create suspense, consider shorter sentences and cliff hangers instead.
Keep it real
This applies to character development. Think carefully about your character's journey before arbitrarily assigning characteristics. This applies not only to things like the character name, but idiosyncrasies of speech and action. Just as making a character too perfect will not read well (we're looking at you, Stephanie Meyer), don't just throw down a random flaw.
Walk the walk
Pacing can make all the difference in the world. If you want a good example, read JK Rowling's Casual Vacancy, and then watch the miniseries adaptation by HBO. Where the former takes a small-town drama and makes it into a page-turner, the latter has probably discovered the cure for insomnia. Same story, made vastly different by pacing. One way to make the story move along is to cut short a lot of the “thinking” bits and throw in more “doing” bits.
Make it lean, make it leap, and they'll keep coming back for more.