Making Every Word Count

By Jennifer Slattery

As a confessing word-lover, I’m the first to admit, I struggle with over-abundance. If a two sentence description is good, than an entire page is better, right? And why not dazzle my reader with my literary genius, spinning word-picture after word-picture?

If I wrote literary fiction or poetry, perhaps. But I don’t. I write fiction, filled with action and emotion. My ultimate goal is not to impress my reader but instead to plunge them so deeply into the story, they forget they’re reading. They’ve become Alice, or Trent, or Teddy–whatever character I’m presenting. Which means, every word must be selected  carefully for optimal effect and anything that jars my reader must be sliced mercilessly from the page.

When writing intense scenes, short, even choppy sentences propel the reader forward. I eliminate reader-jarring tags like, “she thought,” “she felt,” and “she decided,” because they’re not necessary. If I present the sensory details effectively, my reader feels what my character feels and doesn’t need to be told how to feel.

Wanna write like the best? Then study great writing.  Check out his four…maybe five…rules for great writing used by Ernest Hemingway here. (Gotta give a shout out to Michael Ehret, editor-in-chief for the Christian Writers Guild, because I nabbed this link off his fb page.)

I’d love to hear from you. How do you find the balance between stale writing and sensory-overload?


Jennifer Slattery lives with her husband and their teenage daughter. In 2009 she won the HACWN writing contest in the book category, and placed second in the 2010 Dixie Kane writing contest in the inspirational category. She placed fourth in the 2010 Golden Pen and third in the 2010 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest.

She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, The ACFW Journal, The Christian Pulse, Internet Cafe Devotions, and Jewels of Encouragement. Working under Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach, Jennifer enjoys helping other writers strengthen their manuscripts through critiques and beta-reads. She also co-hosts Living by Grace, a modern-day “meet at the well” Facebook community. Visit her online at

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