Writer’s Log: 2166 Story Essential

Story Essential means every word counts. Every word moves your tale forward. Nothing is included just because you like the way it sounds, the way it feels—its literary bells chiming in the chapel.

But here’s another way to look at this concept. It’s math, so brace yourself.

  • The average page contains 200-250 words. We’ll settle on 240 for convenience.
  • It takes the average person one minute to read one page.
  • That means every second your reader will have read four words (240 / 60 = 4).
  • Four words per second.
  • Ten seconds go by and your reader has read forty words.

Here’s the kicker: Those forty words, WERE THEY WORTH THOSE 10 SECONDS OF READER’S TIME?

A whole minute goes by—a page—two hundred and forty words. Was every one of those words necessary? Did you waste any of the readers time with filler, do-nothing description or extraneous dialog that has nothing to do with enticing the reader to read the next page?

Story Essential means winnowing your narrative until no extraneous words burn reading time.

A starving reader craves story sustenance. A bloated one dismisses it.


For my workshop, I’ve been focusing on ground level mechanics, the tactical aspects of writing. It’s been pointed out that there’s another aspect which bears mentioning that, although not mechanics, ties in with the burgeoning writer: what to write.

I’m not talking about subject matter, any prompt of your own device or source (http://writingexercises.co.uk/create-a-setting.php or https://blog.reedsy.com/plot-generator/) will do. Specifically, I’m referring to what you see and hear in your mind when you portray your story’s settings and characters.

I skim over this concept in the workshop’s Writer’s Wrules, but essentially, becoming scene “in tune”, early on when one is learning to write, may help avoid difficult to shake habits that expose a writer as a noob: Info dumping, excessive description, disingenuous dialog, exhaustive soliloquies, or rambling character speeches, etc.

Immersing one’s imagination in the scene and extracting the essential details, the emotive ques that personify the moment—that trick, learned early on, will enhance the quality of narrative and propel a writer’s work up the levels scale.

43 thoughts on “Writer’s Log: 2166 Story Essential

  1. While I was aware of the first resource, I had no idea Reedsy had a plot generator like that. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    I’m trying to find the sweet spot. As a reader, I crave plot not useless descriptions. However, as a writer, I am told that other people like world-building when they read stories.

    You putting your argument in numbers really hit me in the face. Thanks for the wake-up call.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wish some of the people I had to read in uni had taken your class. Thomas Hardy? George Eliot? All those people who got paid by the word or the installment. I still remember reading a three page description of a pocket watch and wanting to scream “WHY???”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the answer to that question is: it doesn’t matter why. That the effort was attempted is enough. What is intent without execution? (Aside from the life I appear to be living… [smile])
      I would ask to repeal that title of class; not wanting to offend those whose occupations it is to pursue such things. A workshop, to me, is a few folks congregating to jaw about the craft, perhaps with a syllabus as discussion fodder. If I’ve alluded to this being more formal than it is, I apologize.


  3. Laced with acid is on the listener.
    Your “system” is complete “bullshit factology” because of the blatant contradictions in this very piece. What is it, Iceberg or Immersion? Or immersion with Iceberg after? Brooke makes a far more succinct example of process, one that has been shared with you repeatedly that you refuse to listen to. Refuse to consult the vast reservoir of knowledge because it might be “too advanced.” Bullshit. You want to strap an equation on creative output and figure if you shove enough shit that sounds like writing into your formula it will give you a polished work without putting in the woodshed time. Thank God you put that disclaimer in the comment above. One you should plug in at the bottom of every slide in your writers wrules presentation. I sued Stanford for perpetrating a far more sophisticated presentation with a very misleading title and won.
    Look, I was professional clinician for years that turned computers masquerading as musical instruments into musical instruments, sans the bullshit. My line was You don’t have to be Beethoven. Anyone can write a song using no more than eighth notes. And rather than show off I brought someone up and showed them how. Did you hear that? Showed. Them. How. One of the better laughs was when they asked “What do I play?” and the response was “Hey, I can show you how to make a song happen from this thing, but if you don’t know how a song goes it’s gonna be a long night.” Drums. Bass. Comp. Melody. “How ’bout that? Give it up for church lady Sue!”
    There is none of that in your bullshit factology. Which if it works for you is a wonderful thing. But I have yet to see the song. I have seen clock divisions and quantization strength and registered parameters and non registered parameters and sweep resolution and all the shit that ain’t got shit to do with story and creativity. If that’s acid, let it burn.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I will do us all a favor and cease to observe what pops up on the internet as “new” information on the craft and equations of writing when all of that information has been readily available since Cicero’s update of Aristotle’s original canons of rhetoric. I’ve mentioned in the past the Frenchman and the 30 something formulas every literary work can be shoved into. You want to reinvent the wheel by splatter painting that which has done well, often and prior, go ahead. It’s not how many words per page nor how economical they are (Lanham). it’s the story they tell. And you guys continue to look for a silver bullet when it ain’t there. Every word counts. Make them real.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A note to myself:
    Learning is done in bits and pieces. Isolated, describable skills that can be identified and focused upon. One can’t learn to be a concert pianist by sitting down and “play it like Chopin”. You can’t learn to be a scratch golfer by “strike ’em like Arnold Palmer”.

    Internalized alterations in specific behavior is how one learns.

    If I choose to use an identifier flag in the shape of “four words in a row” as a signal to examine those words for poignancy to the story — so be it.

    If I choose to key off of the word “was” or “were” as triggers to examine the sentence structure — so be it.

    If I type a quote “”” and use that event as a signal to my subconscious to alert my writer’s mind to watch the dialog tags — so be it.

    We learn in tiny increments, assembled over time, to create a holistic sum. If Writer’s Wrules are exactly these Legos of writing that I choose to identify as singular learning modules that can be isolated and learned independently — so be it.

    In the end the compendium of learned skills grows. And that’s my intent. Others may or may not see my system as useful — so be it.

    Liked by 1 person

          1. LOL! True. Acid that’ll burn through the hull of a ship, like in the movie Alien. LOL! Which is why I shut off that faucet. BTW, I’ll need to throw in a journey as well. In the sense that Brandon has broken writing down to a formula, it’s cliché. My mind wants to reject the cliché as I desperately need originality. But, I’ve finally embraced it! Otherwise, I could ramble on forever and go nowhere. Beginning. Middle. End. Duh!

            Liked by 2 people

              1. BTW, if I were creating content for the purpose of creating content, what’s it to you? LOL! Maybe there’s no point to my blogging other than blogging…a mandala that I’ll wipe away with one punch of the delete key…so what?

                Liked by 1 person

                    1. It’s not about the action, it’s about timing, placement and execution. Think about those next time you squat and squeeze. Do you a world of good. Thinking, I mean. Anybody can drop a turd, even the old dog. The trick for the rest of us is not stepping in the poorly timed, placed and executed. Y’all have fun.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. Chances are, PH, you’re a well meaning fellow. My “turds” have acted as fertilizer, from which many interesting, educational and entertaining on-line “relationships” have developed, most likely filling a huge void in my “meat space” life. That said, perhaps the “turd” is not the thing, perhaps the unintended consequences of the “turd” are the thing. Without the “turd,” nothing fertilizes and nothing springs forth. Even this annoying, fictitiously adversarial relationship with you would not have developed.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. George, please. Here’s the trouble, evidenced. You don’t know when to STFU and when to keep meandering and stop ‘splaining. Something you share with ST. I bust your chops because you’re “of an age” and have an incredibly vivid imagination but continue on as presenting yourself and your work as a lazy, self indulgent, unrepentant slob. Like Brando, you “could be a contendah” but you won’t woodshed. Imagination is a wonderful thing and you should be thankful for it. I spent a lifetime around guys like you who could but for whatever reason wouldn’t. You have a gift, man. It’s a tragic loss to everyone that you are so cavalier with it. Picasso was Picasso, even with a crayon or a smoldering candle in his hand because he put in the time. All I’m sayin’.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    4. Appreciate what you’re sayin’. If my writing fails to improve, it’s a clear indication that my reach has exceeded my grasp. Providing purpose to my little corner of existence, I’ll keep reaching. Perhaps, soon, the lights will go on and I’ll get serious enough to put in the time and meet these high standards. But, uh, thanks.

                      Liked by 1 person

  5. The writer’s ultimate thorn- trying to find depth in the seemingly shallow waters of brevity. It can be paralyzing. I try my best to channel my inner James Joyce when I start writing- just let the words flow out of my fingers like I’m playing the piano (keep in mind, I don’t play the piano) and refrain from self-editing- periods and logic don’t enter into the “equation.” Then, I bust out my Hemingway hat and widdle my meanderings down to their essence- a laborious process, to be sure, but necessary if we want our readers to stay with us until the end.

    Liked by 3 people

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