Writing Lean

Recently YA author Maggie Stiefvater (@mstiefvater) tweeted: Every time you skim a novel, a kitten dies in a paragraph you skipped over. Do you want kittens to die? No. No one does. READ ALL THE WORDS.

author maggie stiefvater
YA Author Maggie Stiefvater


I confess I let some kittens die (figuratively) last month. A couple of novels I read had what I considered to be too much exposition.

Skimming became a knee-jerk reaction. I’m not a skimmer, but there are moments when it’s a matter of skim or drop the book.

For an author to avoid filler, Elmore Leonard suggests, in his Ten Rules of Writing: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” Good advice.

elmore leonard
Photo Credit: tusitala.org.uk


Screenwriters Adriane Coros and Jim Landis recommend: “Writing lean pushes you to really understand exactly what you are trying to say in each and every scene, each and every line, and to know your characters thoroughly.”

writing lean
Writing lean


A comment made by playwright Raegan Payne may help you pare your story down to a leaner core. In talking about the art of writing for the stage, Payne says: “I like being forced to tell a story with just dialogue and almost no resources. It’s a poor man’s art form.”


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To adapt a phrase: keep on keepin’ lean.




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