When I was ten I entered Torontoâ€™s â€œI love my daddy because . . .â€ Contest. The catch? Write it in twenty-five words or less. Actually, only twenty by the time you count that opening phrase of the contestâ€™s title. When the call came that Iâ€™d won, youâ€™d have thought it was the Pulitzer. The prize I did win was a shiny new two-wheeler.
Iâ€™ve been trying to write twenty-five meaningful words ever since. Iâ€™ve had some success, some – practice (I wonâ€™t call it failure). When I decided to write my first novel in ninth grade, a historical western romance, I felt free, unrestrained by the petty word count dictated by high school English teachers. Whee!! The words flowed, and flowed . . . And flowed. I had great fun.
Much later, I joined RWA and the Orange County Chapter. My, uh, practice continued and I thought I learned everything there was to know about writing through the chapterâ€™s fabulous meetings, workshops, on-line classes, contests and networking. And hey, I was still having fun, even though I had to tame that unrestrained flow of words. It was not until the chapter announced its first anthology of short stories Romancing the Pages that I gave serious thought to not only counting each word, but making each word count. My story, â€œThe Guy with the Dragon Tattoo,â€ started out at 2,500 words. After many edits, it came in around 2,000. Gone are most of the dialogue tags, unnecessary description and background information, and a whole lot of narrative. I had a blast writing it, too.
The experience of writing and editing that short story got me thinking about my novel-length WIP. Iâ€™m still on my first draft, but you can bet as I edit Iâ€™ll be analyzing each scene, paragraph, sentence and word to make them count. Thatâ€™s what powerful writing is all about. Yes, you can write sparingly and still convey powerful emotion. Hemingway can attest to that in his book consisting of only these six words: â€œFor sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.â€ My eyes tear, my heart breaks every time I read them.
I challenge Hemingway! I will now sum up the most important thing you need to know about writing in one word: WRITE!!