In my earlier post about writing the Weirdo Company serial, I talked about focusing more on actions than descriptions as one way to keep the word count down and keep the plot moving swiftly.
But, there's more to economy of words than just that. Even in describing actions, you're going to run into superfluous words that are going to bog down your sentences. What are these junk words? They're pretty simple.
Boot up your word processor of choice and go to the "find" function. In the search field, type in "then." How many times did it come up?
Searching through just the first part of my new Weirdo Company novel, the word "then" appears 34 times out of a total of 15,159 words. That might not seem like much, but trust me, "then" is a word you can get rid of without really missing it.
Here's what I mean:
But then her eyes snapped open, big and blue and whip-smart.Or, we can just say:
Her eyes snapped open, big and blue and whip-smart.The effect is subtle, but it works. The sentence is punchier. To the point.
Of course, sometimes "then" is useful when describing a sequence of events. As with all things, consider this on a case-by-case basis. Don't just obliterate every usage of the word on my say so. But make finding these junk words part of your editing process.
You'll be surprised by how much you don't need "then" or "seemed" or lots of words that end in "-ly."