On Being Minimal Part 2

Positive Affirmation of the Day

On Being Minimal

Central Theme of Your Writing Piece for the Day:

Only add what you need in your piece.  The rest can be used in another story.

A Personal Experience

A few years ago, a large envelope filled with contest submissions came in the mail. The beautiful days before email really came into the limelight. I pulled out the contents. Each submission held so much potential – the first two chapters and a synopsis.

I plucked the first one from the pile and placed it alongside the contest rubric. The genre: paranormal and the writing was fairly decent. Excitement built within me, such beautiful work. This author really took the time to clean up his/her work. My eyes absorbed the words as my brain formed a whole new world.

Throughout my reading, I jotted notes on post-its. I always read a piece three times:

The first read I get the first impressions of the piece. I informally note errors and elements I LOVED.

The second read is where the red ink comes out and I make suggested rewrites, move sentences around, write my thoughts on certain passages. It’s important to add comments to areas that made you laugh, cry, reflect, and more. The author needs to know that a human being read their entry.

The third read is a time to sew up all the loose ends and really taking the time to complete the contest rubric.

When I placed my final touches on the form, I set it aside and went about my day. I like to give any piece time to marinate in my mind, so if I need to go back and make additional comments I can. Then, the next day — I read a new entry.

The second one I judged read more like a first draft. Certain parts were polished, such as the dialogue and the sense of place. The characters were strong and I was able to sink my teeth into the story as a whole. However, the author wanted me to know EVERYTHING about the character.

The first paragraph the author went into detail as to where the story was taking place. They made sure that I knew the exact embroidery design on the shirt along with the color of the thread. Then, one paragraph of information bled into several pages of information.

On Being Minimal

A few details enriches the mind and allows the reader to digest the information easily.

By the time I reached page 5, I knew so much about the character. Her favorite food, why she was an orphan, how she was betrayed by certain people in her life which made her the way she was today, her favorite color, all the odd jobs she held since she was a child, the time she stole horses to get away from some bad people in her life, the type of bricks she walked on as she walked down the street, and more.

At this time, I was waiting for the actual story to begin. It’s kind of like watching a movie with no direction for 20 minutes and then finally the action kicks in. Many people would leave the theatre after 5 minutes and that’s being generous.

My top three suggestions for this author were:

  1. Where the story actually begins — I showed her where the story actually started and drew a bunch of arrows for her to start there. In the first draft, it’s okay to start wherever your mind tells you to start. Throw everything on the paper. In the second draft, you hunt for where the action begins and then that’s your new start.
  2. Spread the information love – If you absolutely want to keep the information and you feel you can’t live without it, then take that large chunk and sprinkle it throughout. It’s like a huge block of cheese — it’s hard to eat the entire block without taking bite size pieces.
  3. Less is more. Trust the reader to fill in the blanks.

Is this your story? Do you have large chunks of information dump that serves a purpose more for you than for the reader?

You have two writing challenges for your intuitive connection journal today. Read the challenges and close your eyes to connect with that snippet of time. Allow yourself to walk through the experience and be sure to capture as much as you can with your words.

Writing Challenge #1: Revisit your work in progress and find one page. Just one page. See if there are words that could be edited out. Passages that could benefit from being shorter. Highlight those spots and then make the necessary modifications.

Writing Challenge #2: Take a look at the dialogue between your characters. Less is more. Are there some passages in your work-in-progress that could benefit from some word elimination? Perhaps one of your characters might say few words, but carry weight. Play around with this and see where your piece might benefit from this.

Once you’ve completed your writing challenge, set it aside. After some days have passed, return to your work and see how you can incorporate some of what you have written into your current book.

SignatureHappy Writing.

I’d love to hear how this oracle has enhanced your writing. Leave a comment and enrich the lives of our other readers. Pay your experiences forward.

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Meli Halstead is a kickass teacher who helps writers get their stories written using a variety of oracles.  She has held several workshops to help writers get their thoughts into book form. Her goal for the 2014 – 2015 year is to help 1300 writers write their book. She has written and published several short stories in her life time.  She also gives a voice to those who are trapped in the cruel world of human trafficking.

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included.

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