Writer Wednesday | Restraint

When I resumed writing and working on my manuscript, I had dramatic notions. I wanted every sentence to have dazzling literary impact, heavy with meaning and packed with words. Every line would be a punch to the gut.

I soon realized that if every line was a punch to the gut, my readers would be dead from internal bleeding before the end of the first chapter.

Instead of filling each sentence to the brim, I decided to do the opposite: take a harsh, critical eye at my work. I look for what’s clogging up each sentence, preventing clarity of meaning and style. This adds another layer to drafts and the writing process, but it’s an important one.

The speakeasy #130 piece I posted last night, “Adventures in Babysitting,” was originally 800+ words. Cutting the excess fat tightened the piece and let me focus on the phrases that needed particular impact. In such a short piece, it’s understandable to do that; longer pieces need the same treatment. You want to tell a good story, make readers invested in your characters’ fates. Clumsy sentences prevent a good style and structure flow, impeding the ease (and enjoyment) of readers.

Tana French is a standout example. There are some sections of her books, particularly In the Woods and The Likeness, that I just reread because they were so well-crafted. They’re heavy, beautiful sentences, but not every paragraph needs that. They stand out because they’re not every line, or even every page.

How do you show restraint in your work?

3 thoughts on “Writer Wednesday | Restraint

  1. grace black says:

    I love this post and completely relate with this! It’s how I, too, began in my writing endeavors. I believe flash fiction is a great mechanism for fine tuning the craft of novel writing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


    • Justice says:

      Thank you! I think a lot of us go through this stage at some point. I agree, flash fiction has been a great tool for me as well. It really helps you focus your efforts.


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