Make Every Word Matter!

Some time ago, a friend who teaches fiction writing showed me some samples of her students’ work. Here’s an excerpt:

Joe heard a strange noise outside, whereupon he furtively pulled back the curtain a bit to look. Because it was dark, he couldn’t see anything. A few minutes later he heard the noise again.

And here’s the revision her group came up with:

Three soft taps – and then silence. Joe twitched the curtain and peered outside, but nothing was moving in the darkness. He heard three more taps.

I think the revision is much better! It moves – and one big reason is that the transitions are gone (whereupon, because, a few minutes later).

Often those transitions are useful. But if a story is marching along, you may be able to omit them. In today’s excerpt, your readers will instantly know why Joe twitched the curtain and why he didn’t see anything.

Our brains process language very rapidly. Avoid empty words that clog sentences. Make every word count!


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