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Author Topic: Are you a minimalist writer?  (Read 2133 times)  

Offline kw3000

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Are you a minimalist writer?
« on: January 11, 2018, 08:22:42 AM »
I don't know what it is, but I find myself constantly working toward being more and more economical with my words (though not so much I find when I post on kboards  8)). To the point where I'm becoming barely there as an author. More efficient, fewer words, more efficient, fewer words.

It's almost an unconscious need to get more and more sparse with my scene descriptions, etc. I keep trying to find the most efficient, spare way to get into the dialogue between characters and to stay out of the way. As a reader I find I have little patience for flowery prose, but I admit in my drive toward efficiency I do worry my writing's starting to read like an instruction manual.

Part of this might come from my love of screenplays. I love white space on the page and the insistence on keeping the reader moving on down the page, faster and faster. In screenwriting economy and efficiency are often the goal. Novels are different I realize, but I do value sparse, terse writing. I can't help it. I just wanna get there, get there, get there. My Kryptonite, I guess.

How about you? What's your approach? Are you a minimalist? Maximalist? Changing from one to the other? How do you feel about it?

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Online scott.marmorstein

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2018, 08:36:06 AM »
One of my favorite quotes:

"Prose is architecture, not interior decoration."
Ernest Hemingway

Personally, I'm not a fan of pigeonholing myself as a writer. I get into a flow, and if the flow works and makes sense, feels vivid and evocative, I hang with it until my mind gets in the way and I mess it up.

I think there's a time and place for an economy of words. There's also a time and place to get a little 'flowery' if the context calls for it. Those are elements which need to be felt out as you go.

I guess the example I'd make is: your character(s) enter a setting that demands more prose in order to set the mood of the reader, to really show what's happening--you know, good old fashioned world building stuff.

If you've already set the scene, and you know your audience knows what you're talking about, you're probably going to get away with being more sparse and getting to dialogue. It seems to me like: dialogue x action = forward progress. The rest is stage dressing. And depending on what you're trying to convey, some seem more important at times than others.

But that's just my take.

I watched Twin Peaks Season 3 (no spoilers, don't worry) episode 8? It was so f-ing WEIRD! It was almost all entirely contextual. I kid you not, about forty minutes of the 55 minute show were just these bizarre scenes with NO characters, NO dialogue, NO plot evolution at all and it was annoyingly artsy. Thanks, David Lynch!  It very much reminded me of elements (perhaps it was even a nod) of 2001 A Space Oddesy...but you know, on steroids. It would not have made for a good short story/novella, this episode, because it would have demanded a lot of attention to detail and imagination from the reader. I feel like that would be a mistake in prose, but it can work for something televised like this. The scenes were dramatic and beautiful in their own right, but even with my extremely keen observations, I still have NO clue what it was about. I don't think anyone of us can afford that in modern writing (ebooks/print).

My two pennies to this conversation.
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Online Ryan W. Mueller

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2018, 09:15:13 AM »
I wouldn't say I'm minimalist, but I'm significantly less wordy and descriptive than a lot of authors in my genre (epic fantasy).

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Offline kw3000

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2018, 09:48:37 AM »
I wouldn't say I'm minimalist, but I'm significantly less wordy and descriptive than a lot of authors in my genre (epic fantasy).

Yeah, I'm not even sure I can write Fantasy. I want to, but I'll have a hard time making it 'epic' given I'm always trying to do more with fewer words. Then again, I guess 'epic' doesn't always have to mean epic length. Then again, it could be epic in length and sparsely told so long as you have plot developments coming out of your ears. That amount of plot though would likely exhaust the reader.

Ken Ward / Raylan Kane

Offline Mark Gardner

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2018, 09:50:54 AM »
I started my career as a short fiction writer in magazines, and anthologies. When I wanted to tell longer stories, I started writing novelettes and novellas. Now that I write novels, I still find myself finishing a rough draft with only 40k or so. I have to force myself to be more descriptive. I've always felt that everybody knows what a bench, or a banana, or a beaver is. You don;t have to describe every tree in the forest, just the twisted old cottonwood that your third cousin hanged himself from.

Online Lorri Moulton

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2018, 10:00:27 AM »
I started out in journalism....so I have to have a LOT going on in my novels.  8)


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Offline kw3000

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2018, 10:03:55 AM »
I still find myself finishing a rough draft with only 40k or so. I have to force myself to be more descriptive.

I start to get itchy when I get to 20k. Yikes. Some novelist I am.

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Online D A Bale

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2018, 10:08:37 AM »
I like that - minimalist writer.  I'd consider myself a part of that team, because I prefer to keep the story moving, moving, moving forward, and too much description bogs it down.  Then again, I write thrillers and mysteries, so maybe that's why.  The farther along in my writing adventures, the more I've seen this minimalist tendency too.  In the early days I'd have to cull words, sentences, and whole paragraphs (maybe some pages too) from those first drafts.  Nowadays it's usually adding words - 20k, 30k in that second draft.

Online cecilia_writer

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2018, 10:23:21 AM »
Yes - I hardly ever describe anything in detail and I use dialogue wherever possible. I suppose this probably started when I was writing children's play scripts for a youth drama group (one or two scripts a year for about ten years!).
My mystery novels are about 60k and I only occasionally write longer than this.

Offline Harvey Click

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2018, 10:34:21 AM »
I like lean, hard prose with no flab. That doesn't mean I pare away all description, because faces and settings can be essential components of a story. I just make sure the descriptive passages are doing their jobs with no wasted words.

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Offline MattGodbey

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2018, 10:45:57 AM »
...
It's almost an unconscious need to get more and more sparse with my scene descriptions, etc. I keep trying to find the most efficient, spare way to get into the dialogue between characters and to stay out of the way. As a reader I find I have little patience for flowery prose, but I admit in my drive toward efficiency I do worry my writing's starting to read like an instruction manual.

Part of this might come from my love of screenplays. I love white space on the page and the insistence on keeping the reader moving on down the page, faster and faster. In screenwriting economy and efficiency are often the goal. Novels are different I realize, but I do value sparse, terse writing. I can't help it. I just wanna get there, get there, get there. My Kryptonite, I guess.

How about you? What's your approach? Are you a minimalist? Maximalist? Changing from one to the other? How do you feel about it?

I'm a minimalist. Pretty much Agree with everything you've said here. I don't mind reading prose that's more dense prose, but in my writing, I keep cutting and cutting and cutting until it's pretty spare. That's how I like it.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2018, 01:07:24 PM by MattGodbey »

Online RBN

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2018, 10:58:33 AM »
I hate description and often end up looking for places to insert some before I hand it over to my editor so she doesn't chew me out for Empty Room Syndrome and Faceless Character Disorder.

I attribute my aversion to aphantasia. I conceptualize, but I can't visualize, so I DON'T CARE about "painting a picture." I skip those parts (which are useless to me) when I read, so I'm inclined to skip writing them, which is why I have editors to help me give readers for whom a "mind's eye" is more than a metaphorical concept the experience they want.

I don't have any trouble writing 100,000 words of character, dialogue, emotion, and action, though.

Online D. Zollicoffer

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2018, 11:30:27 AM »
Yes. I hate useless information. Like, I was reading a novel from a #1 NYT Bestseller and he took time to describe the MC putting on her wetsuit. And it added nothing to the story, it just felt like he was dragging things out because he did this dozens of times in the novel (describe details that weren't relevant to the plot).

My rule is simple. EVERYTHING, from description to dialogue, needs to move the plot forward.

Offline GeneDoucette

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2018, 11:40:01 AM »
There is some value in adding sufficient detail that the reader can't discern which details are critical to the plot and which are not. It keeps them from figuring out things ahead of time.

Offline melodybremen

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2018, 11:44:18 AM »
I am a minimalist writer. My books tend to be on the shorter side. The first draft of my fantasy novel was only 32k words long. I added 20k while editing.

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Online D. Zollicoffer

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2018, 11:48:07 AM »
There is some value in adding sufficient detail that the reader can't discern which details are critical to the plot and which are not. It keeps them from figuring out things ahead of time.
I agree. I get trying to misdirect your readers. What I hate is when it happens too much. The novel I mentioned above was brimming with mundane details.

I guess he was trying to make it more immersive. Sadly, it did the opposite. Stuff like that pulls me out of a story.

Online Anarchist

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2018, 12:47:21 PM »
As a reader, I prefer a sparse writing style. My tolerance for description is correlated to the latter's lyricism.

I find most authors wordy. My reaction moments before deleting their books...


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Offline DIAMONDSINTHESKY

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2018, 12:57:10 PM »
I tend to overwrite in the first draft and be massively brutal with cuts when I come back to it and re-write.

I always apply the same rules as with script writing - 'Does this need to be in here?' If the answer to that question is 'No' - it goes.

Offline XCulletto

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2018, 12:57:36 PM »
I also feel like a pretty minimalist writer. But that's been the most common criticism I've received in reviews--that the story needs to be more developed and the characters more fleshed out, so that's what I'm working on. It's a learning process, I suppose.

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Offline C. Gold

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2018, 12:58:04 PM »
Well, I will certainly never be a Robert Jordan. I swear you could build an exact replica of Rand's home town down to the last nail. Now that's some epic world building right there. Also some epic boring prose if you want to get to the actual story. He put in useless information everywhere. Some people love it. Some hate it. When I was younger, I thought it was amazing. But as I grew older, I got more impatient and wanted to feel emotionally connected to the characters, which he didn't do because he was too busy describing the minute details of the physical aspects of his world.

I became influenced greatly by Janny Wurts and Barbara Hambly. Now Janny is interesting because she writes very descriptive terse prose. What does that mean? Every single word she chooses is there for a reason. Descriptive words are there to evoke the perfect color, sound, or visual. She also loves to combine words to describe things in unique ways that expresses a whole slew of things. For instance, 'he fell to the floor like dropped meat.' Just imagine if you had a steak and dropped it. The squelch sound, the splat of blood, the way it jiggles, etc. Two friggen words she used to evoke an entire sentence or two worth of description without actually writing it. Anything you 'think' is spurious, becomes important later on in the series to the point where you can learn new things every time you reread the series after reading a new book. (War of Light and Shadow series). There's no waste in her stories even though the books are huge. I can't imagine writing that way, but it's awe inspiring to read. It can also can be tough to read because it makes you think. With Barbara, I discovered the wonder of evoking emotion in the reader with the words you choose. In the opening scene of the first book in the Darwath Trilogy, when Jil is having a dream, I was right there with her experiencing the terror of the populace as they fled something unseen. The words chosen to express Jil's experience conveyed that fear right into my very bones. I realized then, that this is how I want to write.

By nature I tend towards sparse. But because I want to evoke emotion, I'm forced to think of the words I want to use to describe the surroundings so I can set the tone. I make sure the words I do put in there for description have a purpose and aren't just filler. Rama II is an example of a book teeming with excess filler which served no purpose and ruined the story for me. I hope I never do that to my own readers.



Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2018, 02:06:27 PM »
Well, I will certainly never be a Robert Jordan. I swear you could build an exact replica of Rand's home town down to the last nail. Now that's some epic world building right there. Also some epic boring prose if you want to get to the actual story. He put in useless information everywhere. Some people love it. Some hate it. When I was younger, I thought it was amazing. But as I grew older, I got more impatient and wanted to feel emotionally connected to the characters, which he didn't do because he was too busy describing the minute details of the physical aspects of his world.


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Offline C. Gold

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2018, 02:16:17 PM »

So Crossroads of Twilight isn't your favorite book of the series?   :P
Haha, to be fair I read and finished the series. :P

Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2018, 02:23:54 PM »
Haha, to be fair I read and finished the series. :P

So did I.  Slogging through CoT was a bear, but I made it.  I didn't even skim anything.  I'm actually quite proud of that.   8)

My favorite book of the series remains book 1, though my favorite scenes are in other books.

As far as the OP's question goes, I tried to be a minimalist writer, but I fear I've taken it too far at times, so now I'm trying to dial it back a bit.  There's a healthy balance there somewhere.  It's just a matter of finding it.
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Offline C. Gold

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #23 on: January 11, 2018, 02:40:31 PM »
Slogging through CoT was a bear, but I made it.  I didn't even skim anything.  I'm actually quite proud of that.   8)
I didn't skim anything either! Though I did quit reading the series around book six? because it got too hard to wait between books. I would forget too much. When the series was finally done and up for Hugo award, I received a nice ginormous single 'book' of the entire collection and read it straight through from front to back.

Offline Pacman

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Re: Are you a minimalist writer?
« Reply #24 on: January 11, 2018, 03:23:28 PM »
You don;t have to describe every tree in the forest, just the twisted old cottonwood that your third cousin hanged himself from.

Mark, succinct and descriptive, nice :)

I'm much the same, no fluff no BS - I will struggle to add detail to characters though, that's my Achilles heel. I can write the action, their dialogue is easy, how characters interact with each other, but details like hair-colour and scars? Now that is a battle.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2018, 03:34:15 PM by Pacman »


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