Writing: Words are Like Doritos

A very talented student asked me about expanding the length of a section of her draft. The question made me think about how writers view their words—how much worth the writer places upon them. I like to think of words as Doritos—I can always make more.

Writing Tip for Today: Here are some tips for weighting your words so they can help you grow as a writer:

In the Beginning

Most of us start out in creative writing by becoming rather jealous and possessive of every word we write. This is common and natural. To learn the writing craft, we must convince ourselves that we have something to say. Valuing the words we write helps give us permission to write for others to read. At first, we need a lot of reassurance, asking, “Is this anything?”

To answer “YES!,” we automatically become attached to the words we’ve put down in a draft. It’s good to validate your thoughts in writing, and even better when you write them as a way to connect to others. My main reason for writing is to create and maintain connection. I hope my words will resonate with readers who relate to what I write in a universal way.

Many writers fill journals, notebooks and their computer drives with reams of these beginning words. I think of them as forging the first and most important connection—the one you make with yourself as a writer. If we practice a lot and in as much honesty as we can, our beginning words lead us to our next stage: connections for an audience.

Revising for Connection

At some point, you’ll turn your goals toward publication. This means you’re no longer only writing to validate your efforts to yourself or loved ones. Now you must write to connect with an audience. Your style and topic may stay the same, but now you’re not just preaching to the choir. You need to write clearly and concisely. And most of all, you need to forge emotional connection.

This means that while words you write are okay for you (you know what you mean) they won’t necessarily mean the same for an audience. As I used to tell my writing students, “You can’t go to every reader’s home and say, ‘this is what I really meant.’” In the quest for connection with any audience, revision (sometimes a LOT of revision) is key.

As you revise, you may have to jettison entire paragraphs or chapters. You write new passages, only to be dissatisfied again. Your cutting room floor is littered with deletions. When you write for publication, many revisions are common. With so many changes, you can no longer afford to be possessive of every word you’ve drafted.

Words are like Doritos–you can always make more.

Dorito Words

I like to tell students who struggle to give up their drafts for revisions, “Words are like Doritos—you can always make more.” The creativity you showed when you drafted your work will always refill. If you need to delete stuff that isn’t working, you can hedge your bets a little by preserving the original and revising in a new document.

Any way you write them, words are your commodity, but they’re like tasty snacks, the more you have, the more you crave. Get in the habit of viewing life through a writer’s lens, one that doesn’t think about fitting into your preconceived notions until you’re sure of that emotional connection to readers. Be willing to cut and write, revise and revise. It’s not extra work—it’s part of the glorious craft we call writing.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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