Have you ever tried to reach the 50,000 words required for a novel, but as you progressed, you became unhappy with what you wrote because you realized you wrote unnecessary things in order to expand the story — thus degrading the quality of your story? I personally did. Although painful, it made me realize one important element: the importance of words.
Please take notice that this post is not about the first draft, as it is the part where you’re supposed to write anything that comes to mind. And when I say everything, I truly mean EVERYTHING. This is the moment where you shouldn’t be afraid of writing something or even writing too much.
No, the importance of words comes into play during the second draft — that is to say the editing part. If I learned something through the books and blog posts I’ve read, it is that each word matters. True editing to me is not about adding material to your story, because that would be the role of writing. True editing, instead, is about re-reading your entire story and removing anything that may be deemed superficial.
What I consider as being superficial are words that are not necessary for a sentence to make sense or for writers to convey their ideas. Let’s take a quick look at a short example:
“Don’t come here,” Jessica said loudly.
“loudly” is superficial in this sentence. You could rewrite this sentence as following:
“Don’t come here,” Jessica shouted.
Using “shouted” instead of “said loudly” conveys Jessica’s action to the reader in a better way. It also has more impact. Do you agree with me? Does the second sentence not sound better than the first one?
To me, it does. And if it does to you too, then you just understood the importance of words. Each word in a sentence should be equally important. Superficial words can not only make your sentences seem awkward at times, but it will also slow down the rhythm of your stories.
Now I’m not saying slowing down the rhythm is a bad thing in itself. If handled properly, it can become a great asset. But slow down the pace of your story too much and your readers will never reach the end. They will simply grow bored and toss your book aside.
Remove the superficial parts for efficiency and fast pace, keep them for breaks between two dynamic events. But remember that every word should have equal importance and if their role consists of nothing but filling blank pages, they should be removed. No one would like to be the one person chosen in a team simply only because they lack one more player, right?
Lastly, one of the reasons why I decided to talk about the importance of words is because of a discussion I had with a friend who looked down on short stories or novellas — deeming them worthless because they were not long enough to be considered novels.
I completely disagreed with her, stating that just because short stories and novellas are shorter than novels doesn’t mean they are bad. In fact, many short stories and novellas are BETTER than novels (the opposite is also true). What’s important is not the size of a book/story, but rather the efforts put into editing the stories and whether or not the writer was able to give equal importance to each word — from beginning to end.