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***AuthorTube Special*** The Wordiness Conundrum

Starting a BookTube channel this year has been an adventure, but unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I'm no longer able to make and post videos to the same degree. So, instead of fighting to mash a square peg into a circle hole, I've decided to go with the flow, take a break, and see where God leads me next!

That said, it is my usual posting day, so I decided to put what would have been my YouTube video into blog form for y'all. Here we go!



I don't know about you, but I have had a fantastic November. When I made the impromptu decision to start a brand new, minimally-planned novel for National Novel-Writing Month, I had low expectations for the month. You can imagine my surprise when, on December 1, 12:00 am, I was staring a brand new book in the face.

66 231 words are far more of a NaNoWriMo success than I expected. But they raise the question—how many of those words do I really need?

The answer? Probably not 66 231.

I'll just get this out of the way: wordiness is my great handicap. I mean it—give me a 5-word sentence, and I can make it 25. Give me a word limit (not unlike the one on the exam I turned in this morning) and watch me sweat as I frantically try to stuff my thoughts into a neat 900 or less.

In short, succinctness is not my friend. And I know I'm not the only one. Which is why I am dedicating this post to some of the wordcount-smashing insights I gained from NaNoWriMo 2020.

  1. Well-Placed, Not OVERWHELMING Imagery

Description is fun. The more vivid our prose is, the more accomplished and artistic we feel. But imagery and description, like anything, have their places and times. Instead of pouring them into every sentence, paragraph, and page, keep your writing streamlined by saving vivid moments for the right moments. For example:

  • INTRODUCTIONS (introducing a new character, place, idea, conflict, etc.)

  • LITERARY DEVICE (using description as a tool to emphasize something in your story, perhaps to parallel or contrast the plot, to build a metaphor, irony, etc.)

  • PACE-SETTING (to capture a quiet, slow, reflective moment, when your character has time to take note of sensory stimulation in his/her surroundings)

  • NOT: in high-action situations (where it will bog things down), in every other sentence (where it will lose the reader's interest), or instead of quality dialogue/plot development

2. Repetition

Sometimes repeating certain words or phrases in the same sentence can be impactful. It can emphasize a point you're trying to make or a thought in the character's mind. For example: "This is my fault. They will never forgive me. None of them will ever forgive me." In this case, a variation of "will never forgive me" is used pretty much back-to-back, but it fits because of what it tells us. It emphasizes something important running through the character's head—therefore, it has a point.

Like any technique, repetition should be used purposefully and sparingly. Too much is clunky . . . and you'd be surprised how fast it racks up the ol' wordcount.

3. Dialogue Tags

It's taken me a long time to figure out that—surprise!—we don't need a dialogue tag in every line of dialogue! In the past, I've struggled with the need to add description every time a person speaks, usually with an action, or details to clarify the context. A conversation might look like this:

“What’s that smell?” he asks, his hair a mess of drifts and dunes curling every which way.

I frown at him. “Roast beef.”

He grins, wrinkling his nose. “Are you wearing it?”

“Haha. Ha," I fake-laugh. "That was a good one. Can I stop laughing now?”

His teeth catch the light from the dash. “Sorry. So . . . what’s up?”

“Finn didn’t answer my phone call,” I grumble.

Wowzas. Rough, right? Not only do all the dialogue tags keep us from focusing on what's being said, but they lower the caliber of the entire conversation by banging the reader over the head with implied or unnecessary information.

This is important: don't underestimate your reader's intelligence. If someone is commenting on a smell, the reader can intuitively imagine that person wrinkling his nose—you don't need to say it. Same goes for fake-laughing. You don't need to let the reader know that "Haha. Ha" is not a heartfelt expression of joviality, or, for that matter, that someone not answering a phone call is grumble-worthy. The reader can figure these things out on their own. A better version would look like this:

He laughs, his hair a disaster, drifts and dunes curling every which way. “What’s that smell?”

“Roast beef.”

“Are you wearing it?”

“Haha. Ha. That was a good one. Can I stop laughing now?”

His teeth catch the light from the dash. “Sorry. So . . . what’s up?”

“Finn didn’t pick up.”

The first description adds a little colour to the conversation, but also functions to inform us who's speaking without saying "says" or "asks" explicitly. After that, because there are only two people in the conversation, we can figure out who's talking in each line. The description of his teeth in the dash light (in other words, a smile) is something the reader wouldn't be able to gather from his line.


If you struggle with wordiness in creative writing, I hope some of these tips will prove useful to you. If you have any more suggestions, feel free to let me know in a comment! I can include those in The Wordiness Conundrum Part II!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and if you'd like more of my musings, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter for blog highlights and thoughts from my personal writing journey. This has been a video-turned-blog with Niki—until next time, Merry early Christmas and happy writing, everyone!

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