Smart writerly people, when they give advice, often say to write with as few words as possible, use only the words you need, say things as simply and cleanly as you can. In other words, stop cluttering up your writing with unnecessary blah, blah, blah, and get on with the meat of what is happening.
Dangerous as I am, I kinda hate it when I get writerly advice. There. I admitted it. Honestly, part of me always asks (silently) if specific great writers had that many people telling them how to do their work. Now... before you go wondering who I think I am to buck all of the people who actually know what they are doing, let me say that I am well aware of my naivete` (which is sort of an oxymoron, I suppose). Here's the thing. I am a completely novice writer, and I write because I love it, and I know that I still write for me. Wise, published writerly types always say that good writers need to grow out of the stage of writing for themselves and learn to write for their audience. Well, since I don't have an audience, per se, I still write for me. I do know that, in time, I will grow into a more professional attitude (I hope. I guess. Maybe?) when I actually start having people read my writing and make suggestions and tear it to pieces. But I think I need to go through that firsthand to have that epiphany. At least I know it's coming. Maybe foresight will at least soften the blow. ;)
Anyway, I have gotten off on a tangent, which is funny, because my whole point was about using only the words you need. So as I said, I typically roll my eyes at Writers Who Tell Me How To Write (and I will relish doing so until said epiphany beats me into submission). Here's where I was going before I derailed myself:
Last week, the Brownie troop that holds its meetings after school in my classroom had their last meeting of the year. They are lovely, and they gave me a card and a huge, delicious bag of chocolate to thank me for letting them use my room. Feast your eyes:
I am a chocolate lover, so this gift was insane to me... 50 squares of chocolatey, caramelly goodness! Ohhh, the love. I left school, got in the car, put the bag of chocolates on the passenger seat. It begged to be opened on the way home, so at a red light, I indulged its very demanding whims, opened it, and drew out a perfect, foil-wrapped square of 60% cacao dark chocolate with a caramel center. I turned it over to open it, and was struck by the words on the seam of the wrapping, which read, "Lift and pull to open".
Lift and pull to open.
Really? Do I really need printed directions to remove the foil from a square of chocolate? Without them, would I have sat in my car, dastardly foil wrapping blocking the chocolatey goodness from reaching my mouth, unsure how to overcome this horrendous obstacle?
Then I got to thinking about all of the ads everywhere around us, the "caution, contents hot" warnings on coffee cups, all the junk mail waiting for my arrival at home. I thought about how much of my Time Magazines or MSN online I actually read and how much print is just... there... for me to wade through to get to the good stuff. It's no wonder educational standards now include critical reading, and teachers teach students to think about the author's perspective, who pays for a particular ad, how to understand the spin put on a speech or an article. How marketing works to make you think you really want or need something.
And then I thought about novels and the idea that we read them for enjoyment, for entertainment, for interesting ideas or new directions of thought. And I thought about how novelists are sparse with their words because we don't want to have to wade through noise like we do in almost all other print to get to what's important. A novel isn't going to have printed directions on the cover telling me to hold the book in one hand and open the cover, then read the pages in order. A novel generally assumes I have a brain and often presents an idea without telling me what my opinion is.
So, yes, great novelists.... I agree with you. Write only the words you need. Cut out all the crap. And may all my future writing epiphanies come to me over chocolate. :)