As writers we spend a lot of time trying to find just the right word. We need something that says what we want. But we also need to select words that are specific, and here is why.
Whether you write picture books or novels, there is a limit to your word count. When you overshoot what is acceptable, you find yourself having to remove words from the page. The first round is fairly easy. At that point most of us can tighten our work by removing sentences or paragraphs. We weed out what feels repetitive.
But once that has been done, a lot of writers freeze up. “Everything that is here is essential!” But is it.
Now is the time that you need to make each individual word count. When you do this, you find what I call filler words. Words that I can often remove from my own text include that, have, and start. Whenever I see these words in my text, I know that I can often come up with a tighter construction that avoids these terms.
To succeed at this, you have to study each sentence. Your goal? To find something to remove. Sunday, I discussed this with a writer friend who suggested rereading and cutting one paragraph at a time. And start from the end of the piece and work forwards. That keeps you from falling into the flow and simply reading along.
In addition to word count, using a specific word is often a matter of using a more meaningful word. If your character carries in a “really big fruit,” think again. She could be carrying in a watermelon. Is this a picnic? Or it could be a pumpkin. Is it autumn. Or she might have a durian. That might shift her location from the US to Malaysia.
Is your character studying science? Why not biology? Or anatomy?
Select the right word for the job. It can reduce your word count and also paint a specific picture. Use the specifics to draw your reader into a carefully crafted story.