I’ve been getting into minimalism recently. It’s always been a dormant part of my nature, but I’m starting to act on it. In September, I wore 31 different articles of clothing. Total. Counting coats and shoes. (I also never completely duplicated an outfit, which I used to do all the time.)
I’ve dropped off bag after bag at Good Will and taken a long hard look at my possessions to see what I really need. So far, I haven’t missed anything I’ve gotten rid of. My husband and I have discussed not getting our daughter anything for Christmas this year, since (a) she’s six months old and won’t know better; (b) she already has what she needs; and (c) my parents have already started Christmas shopping for her.
Minimalism and I get along really well. I’m even cutthroat toward my bookshelf, which I want to fill, but only with books I love to re-read.
But where minimalism serves me best isn’t choosing outfits in the morning, or making room on bookshelves, or saving money on Christmas. It’s when I’m editing.
On my fourth pass through my completed manuscript, the plot was fairly well tied down, and sentences were doing all right. Instead, as I read, I asked myself “Do I need this for it to make sense?” I asked it of words, of sentences, of entire paragraphs. I deleted words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages at a time. I deleted more than 4,000 words from an 80,000-word manuscript without changing the meaning at all.
Just like I don’t live in a tiny house, or have 10 articles of clothing, my minimalism isn’t bare in my writing. I didn’t reduce sentences to “I did this. I felt that. Then this happened.” Instead, I was cutthroat with repetition, redundancy, and unnecessary information.
In books, minimalism will result in a dense manuscript. Not dense as in “difficult to read.” Dense as in “every single word matters.” Like Elmore Leonard said, “When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”
If you’re a minimalist, how do you exercise minimalism in areas beyond the obvious? If you’re an author, how do you decide what stays in your manuscript? Do you struggle to kill your darlings?