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Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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wheelygirl58
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby wheelygirl58 » Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:00 pm

This is my try:

As Doreen sat in the subway train, heading home, a large man sat next to her, causing her a deal of discomfort. As the train entered the second of five tunnels, Doreen kicked herself mentally, for not buying one of those back-lit electronic books. While in the tunnel, she heard the man, speak, in a surprisingly gentle voice, ”Ma’am, could you hold my hand?”
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28 This is,another of my life verses!!

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby glorybee » Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:11 pm

wheelygirl58 wrote:This is my try:

As Doreen sat in the subway train, heading home, a large man sat next to her, causing her a deal of discomfort. As the train entered the second of five tunnels, Doreen kicked herself mentally, for not buying one of those back-lit electronic books. While in the tunnel, she heard the man, speak, in a surprisingly gentle voice, ”Ma’am, could you hold my hand?”


Whirlygirl, thanks for your contribution to this lesson! Here are a few things that I'd note about your edit:

1. It's definitely tighter than the original. You got rid of plenty of extraneous material.
2. Your revised version has three sentences, and two of them begin the same way. That's something best avoided.
3. You're also putting commas where they're not needed.
4. Although you did a great job of paring away at the original, somehow you seem to have pared away at the sense of annoyance and then dread. Look for stronger word choices that would have that desired effect.
5. Your version has a good flow, and you have a nice touch with complex sentences.
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby Write2Inspire » Tue Sep 23, 2014 4:49 pm

I've never done anything quite like this but here goes nothing:

Doreen was fixated on her book through the noisy subway station. Noticing the man next to her she scooted against the window. As the train entered through a tunnel, the light faded from the page; she regretted not having her tablet. She marked the page with her finger and pulled her thigh away from the man's leg. Still in the tunnel the train came to a screeching halt. The only light came from a dimly lit tube flickering overhead. Panicked by the sudden stop she gasped. With a surprisingly soft voice the man spoke, "Ma'am? Would you hold my hand?

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby glorybee » Tue Sep 23, 2014 5:14 pm

Write2Inspire wrote:Doreen was fixated on her book through the noisy subway station. Noticing the man next to her she scooted against the window. As the train entered through a tunnel, the light faded from the page; she regretted not having her tablet. She marked the page with her finger and pulled her thigh away from the man's leg. Still in the tunnel the train came to a screeching halt. The only light came from a dimly lit tube flickering overhead. Panicked by the sudden stop she gasped. With a surprisingly soft voice the man spoke, "Ma'am? Would you hold my hand?


Hi, Write2Inspire--

Thanks for bravely putting your edit out here for critique! Here are the things I notice:

1. Good job at paring away a lot of the unnecessary junk that was in the original. Yours is far tighter, which was the main idea of the exercise.

2. You have four sentences that need commas after an introductory phrase:

Noticing the man next to her, she scooted...
Still in the tunnel, the train...
Panicked by the sudden stop, she...
With a surprisingly soft voice, the man...

3. You could eliminate the word 'was' in the first sentence, thus giving that sentence a more active verb (and giving yourself another word you could keep elsewhere).

4. I'm not sure if you read the entire thread or not; at the end of the 1st page of responses you can read my edit of the passage and the reason what I chose to snip what I did. The most important thing, I thought, was to retain Darlene's repulsion toward the big man, and to surprise the reader by his fear and childlikeness. Thus, I got rid of some of the stuff about her book and the light, so that I could heighten the tension. That tension (and the kicker of the man being childlike) seems slightly diminished in this version.

5. Good job on using a variety of sentence types and in the pacing and flow of your edited version!
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby swfdoc1 » Fri Sep 26, 2014 2:35 pm

It's funny that this thread got active again this week while I was working a brief that I filed last night.

First draft, 23 pages; page limit, 15; at stake $450,000.00.
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby Sibermom65 » Fri Nov 07, 2014 6:59 pm

Doreen read while the subway clacked along. A big man sat heavily next to her. She dug her shoulder into the window and, with finger in the book, she edged her thigh away from contact. As the train sped through yet another tunnel, Doreen wished she had one of those backlit electronic books. Still in the tunnel, the train screeched to a halt; the only light came from a dim tube flickering overhead. Her panicked breathing stalled in her throat with a small choking sound. In a surprisingly soft voice the man said “Ma’am? Would you hold my hand, please?”

I found it difficult because I was mentally trying to not change the original too much - it was someone else's work and not mine to manipulate.

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby glorybee » Fri Nov 07, 2014 7:11 pm

Sibermom65 wrote:Doreen read while the subway clacked along. A big man sat heavily next to her. She dug her shoulder into the window and, with finger in the book, she edged her thigh away from contact. As the train sped through yet another tunnel, Doreen wished she had one of those backlit electronic books. Still in the tunnel, the train screeched to a halt; the only light came from a dim tube flickering overhead. Her panicked breathing stalled in her throat with a small choking sound. In a surprisingly soft voice the man said “Ma’am? Would you hold my hand, please?”

I found it difficult because I was mentally trying to not change the original too much - it was someone else's work and not mine to manipulate.


Sibermom, well done!

LOL, it was yours to manipulate--it was written for that very purpose--but I can appreciate your hesitancy with my words. Do you think you took anything away from the exercise that you could use with your own words?

Your version retains all of the important bits of the longer version, but it's perhaps a tiny bit choppy. If you do anything like this in the future, look for ways to combine shorter sentences. I also think a transitional word or phrase is needed before the last sentence (but then, of course, you'd need to delete something else to keep it at 100 words).
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby Sibermom65 » Fri Nov 07, 2014 9:49 pm

Not mine to manipulate - meaning I have spent many years working with children and encouraging them to improve their craft, be it writing or something else entirely. It's like editing - you don't want to change their thoughts or their style, just direct them to rework it in their own words. A good editor needs be "hands off".
Yes, I think I have gained something - the thought process that every word/phrase needs to define the character or move the action forward. I can see that will be valuable to keep in mind, and yes, I did use it in the rewrite of this piece.

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby DustBSH » Sat Nov 08, 2014 3:06 pm

Thanks Jan
This is a great lesson and much needed for me. I am utterly too long winded and I am going to have to study this in debt. Thanks so much

:thankssign

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby Isaiah54v4 » Sat Jul 11, 2015 8:14 pm

Hi Jan,

Thanks for this quick little exercise. I was fun. Below is what I came up with. I deleted the sentence regarding Doreen holding her finger in the book to move her leg because, to me, I don't think that it revealed anything more about the character nor did it move the story along. Was that an okay assumption?


Doreen didn’t look up from her book while the subway clacked through station after station. She was aware of the big man sitting heavily next to her, but she inched closer to the window and dug in with her left shoulder. When the train sped through the second of five long tunnels before her home stop, Doreen wished—not for the first time—that she had bought one of those backlit electronic books. She held her finger in the book and moved her thigh away from the man’s blue jeans. The train came to a screeching halt, still in the tunnel; the only light came from a dimly flickering tube overhead. Panicked, she felt her breathing stall in her throat. When she made a small choking sound, the man said, in a surprisingly soft voice, “Ma’am? Would you hold my hand, please?”

Thanks.
Julie

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby glorybee » Sun Jul 12, 2015 9:17 am

Isaiah54v4 wrote:Hi Jan,

Thanks for this quick little exercise. I was fun. Below is what I came up with. I deleted the sentence regarding Doreen holding her finger in the book to move her leg because, to me, I don't think that it revealed anything more about the character nor did it move the story along. Was that an okay assumption?


Doreen didn’t look up from her book while the subway clacked through station after station. She was aware of the big man sitting heavily next to her, but she inched closer to the window and dug in with her left shoulder. When the train sped through the second of five long tunnels before her home stop, Doreen wished—not for the first time—that she had bought one of those backlit electronic books. She held her finger in the book and moved her thigh away from the man’s blue jeans. The train came to a screeching halt, still in the tunnel; the only light came from a dimly flickering tube overhead. Panicked, she felt her breathing stall in her throat. When she made a small choking sound, the man said, in a surprisingly soft voice, “Ma’am? Would you hold my hand, please?”

Thanks.
Julie


Julie, you missed the key component of the "homework" assignment--you're supposed to trim the original to exactly 100 words. I'd love to see you give this another try!
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby Francie » Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:48 pm

Hi Jan,
This is so much fun. Here's my attempt at Tight Writing. Thanks for your response.

Doreen wouldn't let the clacking subway, or the man sitting next to her, distract her from her book. She inched closer and leaned her shoulder against the window. When the train sped through the second of five long tunnels, Doreen wished again for one of those backlit electronic books. She held her finger in the book and moved her thigh away from the man’s jeans. The train screeched to a halt in the tunnel with the only light dimly flickering overhead. Panicked, her breathing became small choking gasps. The man quietly asked, “Ma’am? Would you hold my hand, please?”

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby glorybee » Thu Jul 16, 2015 11:15 pm

Francie wrote:Hi Jan,
This is so much fun. Here's my attempt at Tight Writing. Thanks for your response.

Doreen wouldn't let the clacking subway, or the man sitting next to her, distract her from her book. She inched closer and leaned her shoulder against the window. When the train sped through the second of five long tunnels, Doreen wished again for one of those backlit electronic books. She held her finger in the book and moved her thigh away from the man’s jeans. The train screeched to a halt in the tunnel with the only light dimly flickering overhead. Panicked, her breathing became small choking gasps. The man quietly asked, “Ma’am? Would you hold my hand, please?”


Well done, Francie!

I'd change a few very minor things. In the second sentence, when you write "she inched closer" and you don't say what she inched closer to, the reader's brain assumes that she inched closer to the last thing mentioned. In this case, it's the man. So maybe a slight re-working of that sentence:

She inched closer to the window, leaning her shoulder against it.

In the next-to-last sentence, you make a very common error called a "misplaced modifier." To explain what that means, I'll have you take a look at this sentence:

Standing shivering in the dark doorway, Jan's eyes saw a tiny, wet puppy.

I started that sentence with a descriptive phrase, but the description doesn't have a subject. So the reader's brain grabs on to the next noun it sees, and that becomes the subject of the sentence. The problem is that the way this sentence is written, "Jan's eyes" seem to be standing shivering in the dark doorway. The sentence should be re-written for clarity:

Jan saw a tiny, wet puppy standing shivering in the dark doorway.

Your sentence does the same thing, but it's not so obvious.

Panicked, her breathing became small choking gasps.

But it's not her breathing that is panicked, it is Doreen. There are several ways you could fix this; here are a few possibilities:

Panicked, Doreen breathed in small, choking gasps.
Doreen panicked, and her breath became small, choking gasps.


Other than that, you trimmed it very well, and your paragraph is nice and strong. You got rid of lots of unnecessary wordiness, and retained the sense of claustrophobia and panic. Nice job!
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby Francie » Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:12 pm

Thank you Jan for your wonderful teaching and support. I am learning so much!
God Bless,
Francie

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby JudySauer » Tue Sep 15, 2015 4:21 pm

Doreen was heading home and focused on her book. Next to her sat a large man. She inched closer to the window for easement. When the train she was riding went through tunnels she regrets not having purchased a back-lit e-reader. Note to herself: get a book light. The screeching train stopped abruptly in mid-tunnel. This is never a good situation. The only light was from the flickering tube in the tunnel. Panic set in. Her breathing stilled in her throat. Upon making a choking sound, the man said in a soft voice, "Ma'am? Would you please hold my hand?"
Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance. -Jude 2 NIV

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