Cutting Unnecessary Words

I think the concept of cutting unnecessary words is where the advice "cut your adverbs" originates. I'm not a proponent of very many blanket rules, and definitely not that one. So what I'm going to do is take a passage from my current manuscript and work it over so you can see what I mean. 

The best way to tighten your prose is to cut out all of the words that are implied by the other words around them. By the way, this same concept can be used to your transitions. If you reader can infer something happened, let it happen off stage. And now for the excerpt from my latest Charlie Snow novel, working title Good Mom:


{She got the coffees to her desk in once piece, ... and took the last one with her as she knocked on Chief Wayne Thomas’ door.
“Come in!” He barked.
He’s in a mood. Charlie thought, as she watched him walk to sit behind his desk. From the top of his salt and pepper haired head, through his slightly overweight build, to the tips of patent leather dress shoes, there was no mistaking the irritation and tension in his powerful frame. Crap. This could have gone better. She plastered a smile on her face. “Coffee?”}


The yellow ellipsis is included here to move the editing along. The point of this passage is three fold, first we are walking through Charlie's tiny police department, to introduce some of the minor characters, and to show the strategy Charlie is using to try to wheedle something out of her boss. So let's deal with the passages in red I highlighted. "to sit behind his desk" is implied which brings up the next point, why is he walking behind the desk. It makes more sense for him to be sitting, which then brings up how do I describe The Chief? I will  have to break it up over a couple of passages. I have places I can insert a detail here and there for the reader. Let's clear up "To sit behind his desk". Well, let's back up, "He's in a mood" is implied by him barking at her in the previous sentence. Over time, I can establish that this is out of character for him. "He's in a mood." just gets as does Charlie thought and now we are watching her open the door, where he is sitting behind his desk.  So let's change it.

{Charlie gingerly opened the door. The Chief motioned for her to sit, there was no mistaking the irritation in his powerful frame. Crap. This could have gone better. She plastered a smile on her face. "Coffee?"}

Now, the rest of the description, his salt and peppered gray hair, change slightly overweight build to slightly pudgy bell, and his patent leather dress shoes, can be feathered separately throughout the remaining part of this scene and the following scenes. Remember this is the first time my reader will ever see this character, so his hair color and the way he dresses needs to be established right now.  And I will move these things into the next couple of sentences.

Now let's see how this micro-scene plays out, and decide if we like it.

{She got the coffees to her desk in once piece,...and took the last one with her as she knocked on Chief Wayne Thomas's door.

"Come in." He barked.

Charlie gingerly opened the door. The Chief motioned for her to sit. There was no mistaking the irritation in his powerful frame. Crap, this could have gone better. She plastered a smile on her face. "Coffee?"

Remember tightening your prose is not just a practice of deleting words. It's about achieving your objectives in a way that makes the book easier, or at the very least, more interesting to read. 

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