Less is More

This is a hard lesson for all of us to learn. Cut, cut, cut. My wife and I went to a talk by Kurt Vonnegut. “Take your first three chapters,” he said and paused…”and throw them out.” Of course he meant that we should start with action, not with a lot of information. Information dumps are never as compelling as action, and dialogue is the most compelling action of all.

Find the key thing that characterizes the person and the location. Not pages of description. Just one memorable thing… and then cut the rest.

Less is more.


5 responses to “Less is More

  1. One of the best pieces of writing advice that I received when I was starting out was: While it’s great to describe the beautiful heavens, the sun and the clouds in breath-taking fashion, you better have an airplane break through those clouds with both engines on fire within about ten seconds of reading or you’ll lose your reader.
    Get to the action…get to the problem because nothing else really matters in entertaining your reader.
    I like the comment about dialogue. How many times have we been told that you can’t start your novel with dialogue. Bull feathers as they say. It is the fastest and most precise way to get your reader directly into the chapter, into your action. I have three novel projects as various stages. Each one opens with dialogue and each one gets right into the action because of it.

    • I appreciate your strong endorsement of starting with dialogue, David. I usually don’t do it, but if it was good enough for WAR AND PEACE, it should be good enough for me.

  2. I agree with both of you Ed and David. Good opening dialogue yanks me in like nothing else and cutting even when you think you are done cutting is always wise. Now, learning what to cut is the problem for me…lol

    • There’s an old writers’ saying: “Murder your darlings.” More to the point is to get rid of anything that interferes with the story, or slows the story down. “The Story comes first.”

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