Writing Tips

Cut Your Words to Set Your Writing Free

Have you ever noticed how cutting your word count can free up your writing? There are a number of reasons why this might be. A tight word count:

  • Asks you to concentrate on the essential
  • Provides a creative challenge to your unconscious mind (which it loves to respond to)
  • Encourages you to play and experiment with different style and form
  • Improves your editing skills
  • Gives you permission to let go of the unimportant

There are some great examples of tight word count = creative results in the blogosphere just now.

Liz Strauss at Successful Blog has just published the results of a powerful writing challenge. The challenge was to:

  • look for something you see too much or too little of
  • write a sentence about it
  • count the words you have written
  • edit the sentence till you have 25 words
  • notice how your ideas and feelings change as you edit and rewrite

The results are fantastic. Liz has taken the time and trouble to produce this slideshare version so you can flick through and enjoy the contributions.

SlideShare | View | Upload your own

I’d like to say thanks and congratulations to everyone who took part. Your writing was most inspiring.

Karin H , Mark , Mark Goodyear ,Lisa, stephenpreneur, Bhupesh Shah, Diana , DazzlinDonna, Karen Lynch , Courtney, RadiantWoman, EdKarl, Robert Hruzek, Ami , JP Rangaswami , Mark , Aaron Stroud, Terry Starbucker, spaceagesage , Claire Raikes, Dennis Salazar, Brad Shorr , Mother Earth , Katie Konrath, Suzie Cheel , Christine Taylor, Tom Volkar, Todd Jordan , Stephen Smith, Peter Knight , Joe Hauckes, theFemGeek, Bobby Clark, Meryl333, Liz Williams, Lara Nieberding , David Taboada , Phil Baumann , Anant, John Cooper, Paul Downey, Paul Whitehouse, Lillie Ammann, Vicky H, Mark David Gerson, Eric Peterson, Jenny Mannion

Meanwhile over at Joyful Jubilant Learning this month the authors are writing a simple post based on the learning we’ve got from a picture. The word limit is 300 words which is quite a challenge for some of us wordy writers over there… but it’s helped us come up with some intriguing, playful, thoughtful and powerfully reflective posts.

Robyn McMaster boiled her contribution on motivation and concentration down to 23 words; Karen Wallace got us thinking with less than 200 words about how we can learn to look (and see) the beauty that’s all around us; Steve Sherlock uses 19 syllables to get us thinking about open spaces and how we’ll fill them with a Sherku.

Shorter posts are also easier and more enjoyable to read - perfect for the summer months. Do pop over to Joyful Jubilant Learning for a browse and see what goodies you find.

Thinking about the creative power of a tight word count got me thinking about the Powerful Writing in 30 Words or Less challenge - a project that generated some thought-provoking and intriguing one-liners. For those of you that missed it first time round, here’s the round up post (including e-book that you can download)

Do you find that you write differently when you’re working to a tight word word count? How does it change your writing? Does it feel restrictive or freeing?

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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10 Responses to “Cut Your Words to Set Your Writing Free”

  1. On July 22, 2008 at 11:59 am Karen responded with... #

    Joanna, great post. I think that a limited word count does change my writing… for the better.

    I’ve learned (a lot from you) that whilst that stream of consciousness writing is good, once I get rid of the excess, the redundant and the meaningless, the writing becomes MORE.

    That’s all I’ll say - in the interests of brevity :) Thanks for the link!

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  2. On July 22, 2008 at 12:02 pm Karen responded with... #

    PS (yep, couldn’t resist) thanks for sharing Liz’s 25 words - have just read it, and wow, is that powerful!

    Karen x

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  3. On July 22, 2008 at 12:16 pm Liz Strauss responded with... #

    Hi Joanna,
    It may just be that when we cut away words, when consciously choose to use fewer, we consider and value them more. :)

    ReplyReply
  4. On July 22, 2008 at 1:11 pm Robert Hruzek responded with... #

    While it goes against my grain to write fewer, not more, words, I have to agree with Liz that the effort of taking the time to carefully pick and choose them, fewer words can be as much, or more powerful than more of them!

    Whew! I just used 44 words to say: You’re right! :-D

    Great to have you back, Joanna!

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  5. On July 22, 2008 at 2:10 pm Robyn McMaster responded with... #

    Hi Joanna, you are so right that during the summer months a shorter word count is an easier read and often we take the line with us and chew on it more.

    When there’s a tight word count I’m more apt to ask a question since that helps readers ponder an idea along with me. The feedback I receive adds so much more dimension to my original post.

    I’m glad Rosa Say, at Joyful Jubilant Learning, gave us that challenge.

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  6. On July 22, 2008 at 5:12 pm Karen Swim responded with... #

    Joanna, it is interesting that as the temperatures rise and we shed outer layers, our minds seem to lighten as well. Shorter word counts, and less frequent posting schedules are a perfect complement to the summer months. I participated in Liz’s challenge and initially I had trouble getting to 25 words! It was an interesting challenge in that you must succinctly capture an essence that draws the reader in but allows them to feel and create what was left unsaid.

    ReplyReply
  7. On July 22, 2008 at 9:37 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Karen, I’ve found that too, that less really can be more. The link is my pleasure :-) Glad you enjoyed the slideshow - it’s quite something isn’t it?

    Liz, I think you’re right. We have to weigh them and choose them more carefully, which means we’re valuing the ones we chose to keep. I loved the way you published the final results - with a lot of tender loving care, showing how much you valued the words (and ideas and emotions) that people had shared with you.

    Robert, I very much enjoyed your own contributions - didn’t get time to comment as I was away but I read them and thought they were very powerful. A different dimension to your writing voice.

    Joanna

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  8. On July 22, 2008 at 10:45 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Robyn, you’re so right - we often take more from those short posts and thought-provoking questions. Somehow they keep rumbling around in our noodles! It was great to see you back at JJL. It’s a great community to write (and read) at

    Karen, I love that end point: “succinctly capture an essence that draws the reader in but allows them to feel and create what was left unsaid.” I hadn’t thought of it that way but it’s right - less words leave more room for the reader to imagine, feel and create

    Joanna

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  9. On July 23, 2008 at 3:17 pm Eric Peterson responded with... #

    Joanna,
    The 25 words challenge definitely was an amazing exercise for me, as I tend to be very wordy!! There were so many great entries. I think Liz expressed in her comment, exactly what I was thinking.

    I’m glad you pointed me over to JJL as well. I’m going to have to visit there more often.

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  10. On July 23, 2008 at 7:33 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Eric, Liz is a great teacher isn’t she? I’ve just re-read your contribution. It’s very powerful in a simple way - a thought, a smile, that will linger with me.

    JJL is a great site - definitely worth a rummage

    Joanna

    ReplyReply

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