Anyone who is around me when I’m writing will know I hate the first draft phase. It is always such a relief to have finished that and hopefully have the basic story down, with most of the bits generally in the right order.
They will also know that conversely I love editing. I take great delight in stripping out unnecessary words and streamlining in an attempt to make my prose flow as smoothly as I can. Tight writing, it’s the best.
I have a sticker on my laptop on which I’ve written this quote:
‘The writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.’
And I try to live by that. Although I know I have a tendency for long waffly bits and run-on sentences.
I was further reminded of concise writing while reading a book of poetry this week by Emily Halfpenny. I’ve put the cover below and a review will be out tomorrow I believe, if I’ve got my scheduling right!
The poems in this book are mostly short. Some, very short. But despite this they get their message across, clearly and concisely.
Which brings me onto mini sagas. Every year in Huntingdon Writers’ Group we have a mini saga competition and writing these are an excellent discipline to hone your writing.
What is a mini saga, I hear you say?
Well, a mini saga is a fun way to tell a story in 50 words exactly, with a title of no more than 16 words.
It should have a beginning, a middle and an end, and some period of time should pass through the story.
A story in 50 words, no more no less. Flash fiction if you will. Sounds tricky doesn’t it? It’s really not. In fact, for me the worst part is coming up with the idea. Once I have that, this is what I do. I just write it out. It doesn’t matter about word count at that point. I simply type.
I say it doesn’t matter about word count. I mean be sensible, don’t start building characters or anything, and once you have your beginning, middle and ending. Stop.
I could well have a story with a word count of two or three hundred words at this point.
But now the editing begins. Work out the main points. If necessary, print it out and highlight those bits. Delete the rest and carry on from there. Every word in a 50-word story has to be there for a reason. Don’t lose sight of the story as it needs to make sense but cut, cut, cut. It’s wonderfully therapeutic.
Eventually you get to the magic 50, and yet I still continue to tweak in case I find one word that works better than another.
If you fancy giving this a go I am involved in running an annual competition called The Roses Mini Saga Competition and you can find out all about it HERE. The competition will be opening for entries in December and there are prizes too – yay! So why not give it a go? If you’re a writer who generally writes longer pieces you will find this wonderfully refreshing.
Over to you. Do you prefer first drafts or editing? Do you ever tackle something as short as flash fiction, and how do you find that writing discipline? If you don’t consider yourself to be a writer but would like to write something one day, how about giving this competition a go? You could also find your work in an actual book, how cool would that be!