Writer’s Desk: Don’t Embellish

It’s easy to write more than you need to. As we come up with stories, our minds quickly fill up with material (setting, mood, backstory, interesting tangents) and it is hard not to want to put it all down on the page.

You know who does not do that? James Patterson. He’s an expert plotter and an impeccable marketer (started out in advertising, you know) who knows how not to waste reader’s time.

Plenty of us can write short. But it’s not that simple. In his new memoir, Patterson provides a simple trick:

Patterson’s breakout thriller, “Along Came a Spider” (1993), began as a full-length outline of the plot, and then essentially stayed that way. “When I went back to start the novel itself,” Patterson recounts, “I realized that I had already written it.” The short chapters and one-sentence paragraphs that became his signature style, and that are often the object of critics’ scorn, struck him as the ideal way to keep the novel “bright and hot from beginning to end”…

If the outline is your story, why embellish? Maybe readers will really want to know what color the drapes were.

But it’s not likely.

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