The word ‘minimal’ has been drastically growing in use over the past couple years. Everyone wants to save money, and living ‘minimally’ seems to be a huge part of that. The goal of a ‘minimalist’ lifestyle is to have only what one needs, and to disregard what one wants. This out-with-the-old way of living is a great way to eliminate clutter and save a fair amount of cash in the process.
But this isn’t about living minimally. This is about writing minimally.
Over the past few days, I have consumed myself with Randy Ingermanson’s website. One of the main things he says is “if it doesn’t work, get rid of it!” At first, this seemed fairly common sense to me, but then I actually thought about it. How much time have I sat and finagled with this one pretty analogy trying to make it work with the rest of the paragraph? Too much. I should have just erased it as soon as I realized it didn’t work. I didn’t need that sentence, even if it did sound nice. I just wanted it because I was proud of it. And just like all those pretty decorations you have cluttering your desk and shelves, unneeded sentences will make your fiction messy. Get rid of the clutter, delete the wordiness, trash what you don’t need.
So how do you know what you don’t need? I again refer you to Randy Ingermanson, namely the article Writing The Perfect Scene. Follow the pattern and erase what doesn’t fit. If you’re really keen on keeping a sentence, cut it out of your fiction and paste it into a separate document. I’ll occasionally do the same, but I rarely end up using the sentences later.
The main point of this is to make your writing clean. Your long-winded description of the living room may sound pretty, but it’s useless if it makes your reader fall asleep, or worse, makes your reader confused. By tidying up your fiction, it just comes out sounding better.
However, don’t just run off to try and start writing minimally. If you focus too much on what sentences you need and what others you want, you’ll get nowhere. Write out everything, clutter, dust bunnies, and all. Once you’re done, I mean really done, put that manuscript away for a month or so. Work on something else for a bit, and when you return to revise your manuscript, your mind will be clean and refreshed, just like you want your fiction to be. Now is when you want to think minimally. Delete sentences, split paragraphs, move and combine others… Whatever it takes to organize your fiction into neat little piles of hand-picked words and metaphors.
So far, I have completely rewritten the prologue of God-Chosen following Randy’s advice. I am quite pleased with the result, though there is still room for improvement. More specifically: organizing into MRUs. Practice makes perfect, though! So I shall keep writing and I suggest you all do the same. Don’t let all these rules and guidelines discourage you. Write what you feel and work from there.
Stay Happy, Remain Beautiful
PS: If anyone invests in Randy’s Snowflake software, let me know how you like it!