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.
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.
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.”
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.”
To adapt a phrase: keep on keepin’ lean.