How to Be a Better Writer: Erase Excess

How to Be a Better Writer: Erase Excess — Write RightIf you want to be a better writer, you must learn to let go of the words. Think of the process as being like teaching a kid to ride a bike. You would hold onto the back of the seat for a time, but eventually, you would release it. The kid must wobble and find the way to balance on his or her own power.

The same is true of your words. Let them go and see if they stand on their own two feet. Those that do should be kept. The ones teetering and tottering should be erased. They are the excess, and they have no part in the work of better writing.

The work will hurt; it always does. You love those words. (You at least love some of them. Some, you readily admit, are clichéd and gross. You cut those words without a second thought.) They must be removed, though.

If they remain, they will hurt the other words—the good words, the essential ones. You should not allow that to happen. It’s no better than holding onto a kid’s bike seat until he or she is 10. You aren’t doing them any favors; they can’t race around the block with the neighborhood kids, and they could even become the subjects of ridicule.

No, you must erase the excess. If you do, the words will stand true and steady. They could join other people’s words on a library’s bookshelves. They might, possibly-maybe, even earn you an award or coveted blurb.

Don’t be afraid; setting the words free sets you free, too. You mature as a writer, your work gaining greater depth and substance. The words become your tools rather than your masters, and that’s a good, good thing. You, after all, are the better writer, and that means you erase and save, erase and save, all so that you and the words improve.

Image: Connie (Creative Commons)


  1. […] Look for gangrenous, going-gray-and-sloughing skin, too. Twirl the scalpel and prepare for the cut. The plot is dying. All the characters hold the same motivation: lust, revenge, kingship. The details add nothing to the story arc and are eating away at what remains. Cut the extraneous away until you get to something worth saving. […]