Becoming more effective in your writing can require getting rid of redundant words. Sometimes I describe in a flourish of superfluous language, my characters talk in meandering waffle…and it all gets a little too much. Today I’m taking a piece of writing I did in my blog from 17th February 2013 and am cutting it down, to make it more succinct, more effective. This is an experiment really, to see if my writing is improved by paring it back, being more mindful of what I include and what I remove.
Firstly I will attack adverbs, and then I will assassinate adjectives!
According to the New Oxford American Dictionary (2nd ed.), an adverb is defined as “a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word-group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. (e.g., gently, quite, then, there).” And an adjective is defined as “a word or phrase naming an attribute added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or describe it.”
You can go back to 17th February, 2013 ( just click here to go directly to that blog entry) to see the original piece. Folloing is the new, abridged work. Which do you prefer? How do you think this changes the piece?
Walking home with my grandmother, as a child, after a trip into the forest to collect plants, we came across an accident. My grandmother was pushing me home in a cart. I sat against the side beneath a blanket. It was late; I was tired and full from the picnic we had eaten in the forest. We had miles to go. I planned on falling asleep, but was glancing into the darkness over the top of the cart.
Something caught my grandmother’s eye – a hint of movement in the ditch. I hadn’t seen it, but she stopped the cart. I saw treetops and moonlight. My grandmother went into the darkness and I peered after her. Within moments, she returned and gathered her candle and tinderbox. She muttered about an accident and told me to stay in the cart. She went back into the night. I could make her out moving in the darkness, but couldn’t see what or who was there. I shivered, thinking my grandmother and I were in danger.
We knew there would be no travelers on the road. My grandmother sent me to the Barton’s farm. The cobbler had been thrown from his horse and was in a state. My grandmother wasn’t sure he would survive. I asked the Barton’s to fetch the doctor and rouse the cobbler’s wife.
I was not afraid, but I was unnerved by the accident. I kept to the centre of the lane, my ears straining against any noises, my eyes imagining things, the cold biting my fingers and the tips of my ears. The Barton’s dogs woke the household before I knocked and Mr Barton pulled his boots on as he made his way to the stables. His wife suggested I wait, but I was wary of company and wanted to get back to my grandmother.
On my return, I heard the doctor’s horse behind me. I was cold, my lips were tight. I ran to the side of the laneway and waved my shawl around like a flag. I thought the horse would hit me, or just continue by me, but it stopped. The doctor pulled me up behind him and we continued to the accident.
My grandmother tied the doctor’s horse then directed him to the cobbler, leaving me in the darkness, pondering all kinds of horrors. The cobbler’s wife arrived with a horse and cart. The doctor lifted the cobbler onto the cart with the help of my grandmother, then turned homeward with the cobbler’s wife in tow. We continued our journey.
Perhaps she thought I was asleep, perhaps she thought I couldn’t hear her muttering, perhaps she had forgotten I was there, but she talked to herself about the accident. A stag had jumped across the path of the cobbler’s horse. He was unconscious when my grandmother found him, thrown a distance, his horse bolted, his thigh bone was sticking out of his leg. She had done the best she could to stop his bleeding. When my grandmother moved him into a comfortable position, his head gurgled. My grandmother realised the extent of his injuries. She didn’t sit him up, afraid to move him.
I went to bed with nightmares.
We found out the doctor amputated the cobbler’s leg, but he had died the following day.
Photo credit: Night forest
Photo credit: Forest lane