The Un-Editorial Notepad #12 – Don’t Force-Feed Your Readers!

Posted by Rita Lorraine

I'm about to spit this out all over the place!

I’m about to spit this out all over the place!

Hi Everybody,
Whizzing thru with a bit of un-editorial wisdom that not only helps to hone writing skills, it’s good for the digestion in the process. What am I talking about? Why,”force feeding” your readers, of course.

“Force feeding” is the act of stuffing your writing with words, words, and more WORDS. The term may already be in existence, or it could be that I’ve just coined a phrase. All I know is, the image and the words came to me as I was reading an aspiring writer’s unpublished memoir, and in my opinion, it fits!

The force-feeder takes the old adage “the more the merrier” to a whole ‘nother level by serving up globs and globs of calorie-stuffed, belly-stretching sentences that are rarely, if ever, enjoyed by the reader.

In fact, the typical reader is probably exactly like the baby above…just waiting for the right moment to spew out every bit of what has been stuffed into its mouth.

Here’s a calorie-stuffed example I made up to help you understand what I mean:

The shocking event sent him into a state of supreme shock, after which he stood as still and perfectly statuesque as a cold, smooth, granite-based statue and held his breath, barely breathing and making his roommates’ widened eyes widen even wider with nervous and really deep concern about his mental, physical, and emotional well-being, which before this event had all seemed just fine.

This is what happens when you force feed. A revolt is imminent!

This is what happens when you force feed. A revolt is imminent!

OMG…are you as full as I am?

Why not this sentence?

He stood still as a blanket of winter snow, mouthing words no one could hear while his roommates grew wide-eyed with concern.

True, this second version omits certain details, like the fact that the catatonia is caused by a particular event (whatever that might be), but at least it’s a clearer and more precise starting point.

The lesson here is to trim the fat before you try to feed your work to your readers.

Pretend you’re the parent of this baby on the right. Hungry or not, you’re not going to feed it fat meat, heavily seasoned veggies or chicken with bones. You’re not going to drown its food with spices or add chili peppers to spice things up.

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Be economical. Don’t use ten words when you can use six, and don’t use five descriptions when one will do the job.

In short, be as choicy with your words as you would be if you were choosing your sweet baby’s upcoming supper. Once you get the hang of writing — or not writing — this way, you’ll likely never have the urge to force feed again.

Best wishes and happy writing,
Rita Lorraine

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