Why writing is deleting

I’d like to share with you a haiku I entered in a BookBaby contest:

Write by deleting.
What is not necessary
Bothers the readers.

Why do I believe this is so?

When we first write, we should always write more than we need

The goal of a first draft is to get the words written. It doesn’t matter if there are typos, dead ends, and scenes that don’t make sense (at least at the time we write them). If we do too much editing at the beginning, we block ourselves from creating our best material. We also find ourselves wasting time revising when we need to build the structure of our story. Get the words down and clean them up later.

The deletion process helps you find what works

Editing a draft is like looking for clothes on the bargain rack. You first sort out all the clothes that don’t fit, then eliminate the ones that aren’t your style. Finally, you have a manageable set of choices you can focus on until you find exactly what you want. The deletion process helps you narrow down your writing until you find the words that best express your ideas.

Constraints add focus and power to your writing

In Toastmasters, I learned how to give five-to-seven-minute speeches. This may seem like an eternity when you’re at the lectern, but these speeches are only 700-900 words. I had to learn to be succinct. There is no room for fluff or unnecessary explanation. Constraints like these help me distill my ideas to the essentials, which makes my writing more powerful.

Focusing on the essentials benefits the reader

Readers want to feel that they benefit from the time they invest in reading. They don’t like to feel they’re wasting their time deciphering unclear writing or wading through text that doesn’t add to the story. By offering them trim, powerful writing, they feel that reading your work is time well spent.

Update: My haiku was one of the winners in the BookBaby contest!