Is your writing bloated?
Is it overwritten and podgy?
Is it dull and lifeless ... or just plain boring?
Do you want to tighten your work and give it more vim-and-verm?
If you answered yes to any (or all!) of these questions Helen Sword's THE WRITER'S DIET might be just the book you need.
The Writer's Diet is a practical hands-on guide to diagnosing whether or not your writing is in need of a jolly good work out and trim.
Depending on your results your work will score as Lean, Fit and Trim, Needs Toning, Flabby or Heart attack territory. :D
Step 1: Take a piece of your writing - something you have edited and polished already - of either 100 or 300 words.
Step 2: Assess for Verbal Verve.
This involves hunting out the weak or passive verbs such as: am, is, are, was, were, be, been.
Step 3: Assess for Noun Density.
This checks for abstract nouns, "especially those pirated from verbs and adjectives."
Step 4: Assess for Prepositional Podge.
This seeks out the little-bitty often unnecessary words that like to creep into our work. Such as: Of, for, in, by, from, with, at, in, on, past, after, up, down, into, of, along, through, until, across, beneath, etc, etc. The trick is not to eliminate them all but to limit them. Collaborating them with colourful -ing verbs, active verbs and concrete imagery.
Step 5: Assess for Ad-dictions.
This digs up all those weedy adverbs and adjectives. But before you throw up your arms in horror and hack out every ad- word in your novel, STOP! Consider each one carefully. Could you do without it? Would another word create a clearer more concrete picture?
Step 6: Assess for Waste Words.
This looks at how frequently you're using it, this, that, there.
This is important because these little words often "congregate together, sucking weak verbs, abstract nouns and prepositional phases into there orbit."
Step 7: If your work is diagnosed as needing a bit a TLC and trim or perhaps (heaven forbid) some serious liposuction, now is the time a start editing.
For each of these steps Helen provides helpful exercises to practice writing healthy prose. She gives good examples from work of both fiction and non-fiction writers showing what to look for and how to correct or re-write sentences to give you tighter, more active, writing.
So whether you write novels, short stories, articles or academic prose this little book is sure to help you add some pizazz to your work.
You can visit The Writer's Diet website here.
A lecturer at Auckland University, Dr. Helen Sword is an experienced writer, editor and teacher.
Keep watching this space as I'll be posting the results of a piece of my own work here shortly.