This is one of those areas that sounds simple and really isn’t. As Hawthorne said, “Easy reading is damned hard writing.” (BTW: How can that quote be Hawthorne? Doesn’t it sound more like Twain? Coulda sworn it was Twain.)
Anyway. Punchy writing. Writing that’s lean. That doesn’t have a bunch of filler. That doesn’t get bogged down. Sounds like it’d be so easy. But it is often so hard to know what to cut. It’s far harder to kill your darlings than you’d think. (That darling bit was Faulkner. Sounds like Faulkner. Still hard to believe that easy reading quote wasn’t Twain.)
A few posts popped up recently about achieving leaner, punchier writing. This one from Jane Friedman’s blog offers tips on cutting the mundane. (Seriously–if you’re not regularly reading Friedman, you’re missing out.) And Lamar Giles stopped by my own MG blog to offer a few tips on writing action. (Hint: cut, cut, cut, short, short, short.)
A GREAT PLACE TO START INFUSING “PUNCHINESS” IN YOUR OWN MANUSCRIPT: DIALOGUE
One area I’ve been hitting in my own writing during the line-edit stage is dialogue. Dialogue tags (he said / she said) can add a ton of unnecessary words. As I draft, I also tend to add lots of completely unneeded direction in dialogue. Characters turn, tilt heads, push hair from faces, light cigarettes, cross legs, frown, etc. Dialogue moves quicker and carries more weight if you get rid of the extraneous description and tags surrounding it.