A Writing Exercise in Briefs (Not Underwear)
Brett Legree explains why blogging for profit is like collecting underpants. He talks about love of craft but he never does ask (or answer) the question that’s on everyone’s mind: boxers or briefs?
Well, I’m here to tell you why some briefs belong on the page and not in your pants.
Boxers or Briefs?
If writing for the web has taught me anything, it’s brevity. I’ve always written short poems. In fact, my poems are so small, I could slide them up my legs and wear them like a bikini. But my other writing tends to be a bit wordy, more like boxers.
And like boxers, wordy writing is long, and that’s no good, especially for online writing.
Sometimes lengthy writing is necessary and it certainly has its place in many different types of writing, like literary novels. However, on the web, most people scan rather than read, so keeping text short and concise is beneficial because your readers will be able to quickly absorb your points without having to stare at the glaring screen for too long. You can also help your readers scan by including sub-headers and breaking up your text into short paragraphs.
But what if you have a tendency to write extremely lengthy prose?
A Writing Exercise in Brevity
Most writing exercises are designed to get creativity flowing. But this writing exercise challenges you to take a long piece of writing and make it short and sweet.
Luckily, it’s easy. With a few well-placed edits, we can turn boxers into briefs in no time.
Here’s an example of some original text I pulled from one of my many unfinished short stories. I have gone through and crossed out parts that can be eliminated without compromising the integrity of the piece:
Saidra turned her head and took a good hard look up the street. Where were the walkers and joggers that usually passed by throughout the day? She looked the other way. Where were the mommies, with strollers and toddlers in tow, walking their young schoolchildren to their classrooms? She stared straight ahead. Every day, the little old lady across the street came out with her coffee, picked up the newspaper and enjoyed both on her front porch, under a basket of pink and lavendar fuscia. After a quick trip inside, Old Rose, as she was known, always spent the first part of her day tending the garden. Today she was nowhere to be found. The entire street was deserted.
Once I trimmed away the excess, I dressed it up a little, just to make sure it still sounds good and makes sense:
Saidra looked up and down the street. Where were the walkers and joggers? Where were the mommies, walking youngsters to the nearby school? She stared straight ahead. Every day, the little old lady across the street picked up her newspaper and enjoyed it with a cup of tea on her front porch. Today she was nowhere to be found. The entire street was deserted.
How do you like that? I took this from 119 words down to just 64, and in less than ten minutes. It’s like a strip show for word lovers! Hey, who says writing exercises can’t be sexy?
Take it Off
Now it’s your turn to tackle this writing exercise. No, you don’t have to take your clothes off. Then again, the weekend’s almost here so maybe you should. You do, however, have to unclothe a piece of your writing.
Pick a poem, story, or blog post you’ve written. Go through and get rid of words and phrases that aren’t absolutely necessary. Then go through it again, reconnecting everything and rearranging the words that remain so they are compelling. See how short you’re willing to go.
Or, tackle my paragraph and make it even shorter, then show off your skills in the comments section. Come on, I dare you!
If you have any writing exercises to share, feel free to post them in the comments.
Are you looking for more writing exercises? Pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.