Are You In Love With Your Own Writing?

“A word after a word after a word is power.” Margaret Atwood

There’s this thing called verbal narcissism. It’s pretty much the ability to game a wall, if it comes to that. To sell sand in the Sahara Desert.

It also means to be so in love with your own words that it could mean talking on and on about things that few people ever care about. Or it could happen that you do deliver a strong message, but you’re using so many words to do so, that it’s all distilled to the point of making people want to smack you over the head with their keyboards.

Yes, a word after a word after a word is power. It can change the world. It can earn you a nice income. It can influence people to do more than what they even dreamed possible.

But you can also use too many words. More words than necessary.

You can always tell your story in fewer words. Always. If you think you can’t, try harder. Every minute of additional effort on your part reduces the effort on the part of the reader, and that leads to a more enjoyable experience on their part.

Don’t force your reader to skim through thousands of words when only a few paragraphs will suffice.

To paraphrase Stephen King, kill your darlings. Delete the words that are not meant to be there, even if you love them. If the words you use are not moving the piece forward, then they must go.

This is law, and pretending it’s not will only hurt you.

34 thoughts on “Are You In Love With Your Own Writing?

  1. I feel like you might be talking about me. (It’s probably the narcissistic part of me talking.)
    Often times I worry that I write too much, but there are various reasons behind it. None of them is related to me being in love with my words.
    Short posts are definitely the favored ones, but what if I don’t want to bend to society’s millisecond attention span? What if I’m trying to “save” humanity?

    A great post, nonetheless. I can totally see your point.

  2. Anyone who has read the “complete and uncut” version of The Stand and the version after his editor got thru with it knows how important it is to kill those words. Become a mass word murderer. Purge those words by the thousands or even tens of thousands.

  3. Shortly after putting up yesterday’s post, I was thinking, “A guy could’ve said all that in 3 sentences!” You (and King) are right about bring too wordy, but I can’t kill my darlings; this is why God invented editors, no? 🙂

  4. I received a list of powerful verbs to use as I’m terrible for using a slew of words to discribe or explain something. It was the best thing ever! Because now I can take a wreaking ball to my work and tighten it up, make it better. Though I like your version, kill the darlings! It’s hard, but worth it if you want to grow as a better writer 🙂 thanks for sharing.

  5. Thanks for putting this up. I needed this. I am repeatedly reminded by my friends to keep things short. The way you made your point helped me recognise what I was doing wrong. I hope your post acts as a catalyst in improving my writing skills.

  6. Thanks for this, timely (in my world, at least) like and post, Cristian. It was truly helpful. Though I’m not in love with my own writing, at least not until I publish it, haha, I do write (and/or perhaps publish 🙈🙊) far too many words.

    1. Ack! Once again, I’m not in love with my writing *except* perhaps for a small moment *before* I publish it. (And then, only rarely.) Which is what I mean to say in that comment. Or whatever. Something like that. I’ll just zip it now. Moving on… 🤓🤦🏼‍♀️😆

  7. Exactly. I teach university students and cutting their writing is always the hardest thing for them to learn and then actually do. It’s also one of the most important skills for a professional writer as well. Good post.

  8. I agree with everything here. But it was Faulkner who originally said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” King gave a twist on Faulkner by writing, …kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” King used Faulkner as source material.

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