There is a poignant scene in the movie The River Runs Through It whenÂ ‘Â is home schooling him. He turns in an essay and his father frowns a bit and tells him to cut it in half. The boy returns with the assignment and the father tells him to again cut it in half. He does so again and is finally released to go fishing. It may seem torturous and unnecessary, but the father was giving his son an incredible gift. The one thing that will hold a writer back more than writer’s block is writer’s verboseness. Yes, I’m saying that giving your readers too much to read is worse than giving them nothing at all. Fortunately, it’s an easier problem to fix.
This is not to say that all sentences should be short. There are times when a long, winding sentence that meanders through the field, across a small stream and into the forest is perfectly appropriate. These sentences, however, should be there with the explicit intention of the author. More commonly, sentence wander around aimlessly because no one cared enough to rein them in and instill proper discipline.
I once worked with a young writer who balked at my suggestion that at least half of his words were superfluous. He accused me of trying to drain the life from his prose. Proper trimming doesn’t kill a story, however. Just the opposite, it frees the story to come to life in a reader’s mind.
It is not about randomly cutting words or cutting them for the sake of it. Instead, it is about pulling out dead weeds that are choking the life out of your plants.