Learn to Cut Words Before You Write Them

Editing Exercises

By Annette Rey

Participating in writing exercises will help break writer’s block as well as improve your writing. Simple, short challenges work just as well. You wouldn’t waste energy exercising your body and not having a body part target in mind. Nor should you engage in writing exercises without a goal in mind for writing improvement.

The next exercise will help you target editing even before the editing stage.

I know all of you have heard of a six-word challenge, or write an opening sentence in twenty-five words or less. You usually do these in response to a call on Facebook or to submit an entry to a magazine contest. But what about practicing these, and other exercises like them, on a regular basis. Try writing six a day.

Keep these efforts in an actual spiral bound notebook. Yes, I mean, ignore the computer. Notebook-ing is like journaling. You can easily access a particular history of specific writings you have created. And the entries are a great source for writing ideas to come back to later when you are feeling stuck.

Title the notebook something like Short Writing Challenges. Date the pages. Title each page with the category/type of exercise you are facing.

Then write.

Without realizing it, you are editing before writing. Because these challenges require brevity, you must say a lot in a very limited amount of words. Superfluous words, redundancies, even dreaded adverbs must not be used to create concise, whole thoughts.

Create a subcategory at the top of the page to separate subject types. If you have trouble making these titles, Facebook writing groups post these in picture boxes and there are muse books on the market. But, the best titles will come from your mind and are free to boot and are, really, additional exercises. For instance, Six Words About Shoes, or Five Words About Religion, or A Complete Ten-word Story, or A Twenty-five Word Sentence About the End of the Earth, or A Twenty-five Word Sentence About Nine Lives of My Cat (or dog or mother or my favorite TV show).

That last one would be hard to do! Should we give it a try?

OK –

Mow-Mow bounced back from: epilepsy, diabetes, falling from a tree, a skunk encounter, fleas, surgery, lost claws and teeth, and just plain bad karma.

Twenty-four words – and no cats were harmed in the creation of this sentence.

I had to stop and think when creating that cat sentence. I had to cut words as I worked and think up nine catastrophes and how to say them. I also wanted the sentence to have some appeal and to not become just a boring list.

Create a notebook for your efforts. Write in it everyday.

There’s nothing like getting your writing mind fit to meet your other writing goals.


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