Distilling Word-Wine into Literary Cognac


Writers are numerically confused and quantitatively torn—or maybe just hypocritical. We decry the unwillingness of people to read novels along with their affinity for Tweets. On the other hand, writers love to craft aphorisms, microessays, haikus, six-word memoirs and flash fiction (“For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”—Hemingway). So, how does one find the right number of words? Perhaps Antoine de Saint-Exupery had it right: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Or as a mentor once told me, every piece is improved by being one-third shorter. [And this blog post has 100 words. So…]

Writers are confused, decrying the affinity for Tweets while crafting haikus, six-word memoirs and flash fiction. So, what is the right number of words? Perhaps Antoine de Saint-Exupery had it right: “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Or as a mentor once told me, every piece is improved by being one-third shorter. [And this blog has 66 words. So…]

Numerical confusion: writers decry 140-character Tweets while crafting six-word memoirs. What is the right number of words? Perhaps Saint-Exupery was right: “Perfection is achieved …when there is nothing left to take away.” A mentor told me, every piece is improved by being one-third shorter. [And this blog has 44 words. So…]

Writers decry Tweeting while crafting six-word memoirs. What is the right number? A formula: reduce the words by one-third and repeat until there is nothing left to take away. [And this blog has 29 words. So…]

How to find the right number of words: Reduce text by one-third. Repeat until there’s nothing left to eliminate. [And this blog has 19 words. So…]

Writing recipe: Take a text; reduce by one-third; repeat until perfection is achieved. [Finally, 13 words. Perfect?]

#creativewriting #writingprocess #teaching

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