The kindest cut of all

At school, we had a weekly English class in condensing text. It was in the days of O-levels, OK? They also made us read Hardy which is really uncalled for. I was rubbish. I’d submit stories in creative writing that were 1800 words instead of 800 (a Marlowe pastiche – Philip, not Kit). Then I discovered the drabble: stories told in exactly 100 words, no more, no less. You really have to condense to make 100 words tell a story. Cutting adjectives, finding tighter phrasing, understanding colons. All of those came from drabbling. I recommend it to people as good practice.

Tonight I found I have a new favourite editing warm-up. 140 characters, inc. punctuation. If you want to learn to edit sharply, get twitter.

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4 Responses to “The kindest cut of all”

  1. Mark Clapham Says:

    Did you see Tony Jordan on Screen Wipe this week? He had a good tip about writing dialogue with all the expositional detail, then cutting and cutting until you had the minimum information people would need to exchange – and that would be what people would actually say.

  2. Mags Says:

    Yes, I loved the way he cut five sentences of burble down into “Later!”.

  3. carrie Says:

    We do mini-sagas ( or 50 word fictions) with kids now. They love it and write beautiful little things. And there’s nothing more perfect than a kid’s haiku. Less is more when it comes to children, I always say.

    And I never teach Hardy. That would be child abuse.

  4. Mags Says:

    I wonder if I could belatedly sue? I had to read Mothers and Sons when I was 15: that’s plain wrong.

    Haiku are another form I love, but I get pedantically hung up on getting the break in the middle of the thing so they take me forever.


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