The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Too Much

I remember, I think it was something to do with a Big Finish short-story-writing competition of a few years ago, being asked to give advice on writing. As I’ve said before, I have very little advice to give. The best thing an aspiring writing can do is stop bloody aspiring and get on with it.

But here’s a tip I’ve found useful. Always try to write a little bit too much. Not far too much too much – that would be too much. No, ideally you want to be about ten to twenty percent over, so that you have to edit whatever-it-is down and be merciless. That way, you’ll end up with a piece exactly the right length which is much, much better than it would’ve been if you’d written it to length.

Over-writing liberates you. It gives you the confidence to cut stuff which isn’t quite good enough (it’s all saved on another file, just in case). The more crap you cut, the better the end result will be. Because if it’s a comedy script, the rule is, that comedy script will be exactly as funny as the worst joke contained therein. You want that worst joke to be as good as possible, so you’ll write a script which is four or five pages too long... and then chop the gags you’re not sure about until you’re left with just the ones that actually make you laugh.

I can’t think of a thing I’ve written which hasn’t been overlength and then had to be edited down by about a fifth. It works. You’ll end up cutting stuff that you won’t even notice is missing. It’s easier to cut than to rewrite and, boy oh boy, it’s easier to cut than it is to pad something out. That’s a bugger.

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