Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Padding

My friend Kelly and I were talking about writing the other night (as we often do), and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) came up. Which led to this blog post.

NaNoWriMo, the pursuit of 50,000 words in a month, can be an inspiring burst of creativity, or it can inspire some bad habits. One trick to increase word count is sentence-padding. "He crossed the room" becomes "He decided to go from one side of the room to the other and so he walked over there."

NaNo rewards the second sentence more: It's longer! More words! But it's not a better sentence.

My suggestion to anyone who is tempted to pad a story is: Don't. It's better to finish November with 40,000 good solid words than with 40,000 good words and 10,000 bits of padding that have to be yanked out later.

If the padding is unconscious--if you find yourself, as I do, inserting "just" and "really" and "very" without thinking--then fine, don't stop and pull them all out now. Let it flow. NaNo's about flow. I only advise against conscious padding, the deliberate addition of unnecessary words. It can develop bad habits, and even though these crutch words can be deleted later (I should know; I've deleted scores and scores of "justs"), it's simpler not to use them in the first place.

Happy writing!

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