make every word count

In HOW I LIVE NOW, Meg Rosoff does that. The book is sparse, stark, and so is the topic and detail. Yet, without fail, we are in the moment. It is a stunning accomplishment that. And, that it is about dystopian times when we have not only long stories but trilogies filling the booksellers shelves, is part of the attraction of the book.

At the  LA SCBWI Conference, in her keynote address, THE HOW OF IT Linda Sue Park talked about exactly that, making every word count. Maxing out words. Ripping away the words that do not bring full weight to the manuscript.

She counsels us to put away our work, and bring it out after a month [not the first time I heard this in this conference]. And when we do, we can be amazed at how it looks now. She provided tools, remember this was a keynote, in the ballroom, twelve hundred people, and it worked like a small workshop.

  • Some rules included watching for orphans in paragraphs
  • take out all the narrative in a dialogue and reinsert only where needed
  • read aloud
  • think of each paragraph as a ‘thought unit’.

But most of all, remember we are bombarded with words. They are cheap currency. We are not paid like Dickens. Make words special.