Posted in Craft, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Run Away Words

runners-373099_1280.jpegEver met someone who can’t seem to stop talking? He always has something to say. She may or may not be interesting, but has words for every topic. If there’s silence, this person is more than happy to fill it. Perhaps, overfill it.
Ever been sidetracked in a conversation? It definitely happens to me. I start telling a story, then at some point realize my words have run off the road. I’m not sure where I took the detour that got me from the original topic to where I am now. I might lamely say something like, “I’m not sure what the point of that was…”
Writing is neither about simply filling the page with words nor about letting words run away. Sure, a rough draft may work that way. But even with a rough draft, we hope we are headed in the correct direction. Our intent isn’t simply to spit out words.
Recently when editing someone else’s novel, I found myself marking “redundant” on information. As a reader, I already got that point and didn’t need to be told again. But as I writer I know how easy that is to do. We want to make sure our reader doesn’t miss something important. We want to keep a reader grounded in the setting. We have good intentions. However, we need to trust that the reader will understand without us over explaining.
I find it easy to let my words run away when working on a picture book manuscript. And it isn’t only about word count. I have to go back and look at my text and see what should be left out because the illustrator will take care of it.
Sometimes run away words are simply a bad habit. “Everyone” says them and we use them without thought. I found this site that lists 200 Common Redundancies in English. It’s actually rather entertaining to read. The words in parenthesizes are the ones to leave out.
Clichés are similarly not good practice in our writing. I like how this article, 681 Clichés to Avoid in Your Creative Writing, calls them shortcuts. Peter Selgin says, “The real problem with clichés is that they deprive us of genuine details, which, though less sensational, are both more convincing and more interesting.” This article suggests interesting ways to remove clichés: Replace Cliches with Phrases That Move.
If you have tips or suggestions on other ways we writers let words run away, feel free to comment below.

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