Keeping the fat out of your writing is hard. But necessary. Fat provides the taste, the flavor in your writing. But too much fat makes the writing unpalatable. It needs to be kept under control. A weekly regimen of writing exercises will help to keep your writing under control. But sometimes the fat just takes over your writing. And for those times the only thing you can do is to flush your palate. Here are 2 writing exercises that are designed to eliminate fat from your writing diet:
1. Write a complete story in six words or less.
This is a famous exercise based on a story by Hemmingway… For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Yes, that was the story. Now you get to do the same thing. For this exercise you need to write down to the bone. Get rid of everything that isn’t the story. But one story isn’t enough. Exercise needs repetition to work. And you need to work yourself up to that level of fat freedom. So you’re going to write four different stories. One with exactly 20 words. Then one with exactly 15 words. Then one with exactly 10 words.
Then one with exactly six words. Each story needs to be complete. It needs to move the reader. There are two ways to do this exercise. One is to choose a different emotion for each story. The other is to choose a different emotion each time you do the exercise and write all the stories using that emotion.
2. Write one story until it is six words or less.
This is a slightly different take on the previous exercise. Generally it is good to alternate these two exercises rather than try to do them both in one exercise session. The last exercise had you write four separate stories. In this exercise you are going to trim your story until it reaches the correct length. Start by selecting an emotion. Then write a single paragraph story. Your paragraph should be of reasonable length — say 100 words or so. The story should center around that strong emotion that you want your reader to feel. Now eliminate half the story.
Rewrite the story into a short paragraph of about 50 words. In the process do not lose any of the emotion. Your story should be stronger not weaker. Now do it again but this time you have a specific target. You need to write the story in exactly 20 words. When you finish that rewrite it into 15 words. Again remember to keep the reader experiencing the emotion. Now write it into 10 words. Is the reader still experiencing the emotion? Good. Now do it in 6 words or less. Remember that the story should still stir the same emotion in your reader.