There’s only so much you can say in 420 characters. Or is there? Facebook is certainly an exercise in writing efficiency. If you have only a brief sentence to share, you won’t have a problem, but if you want to go on a bit longer, Facebook forces you to cut absolutely every nonessential word. It teaches you to write tight—a vital skill for writers. Which got me thinking. Which got me experimenting. And thus the Facebook Writer’s Challenge was born.
Take a chunk of text from your work-in-progress. A short paragraph or a few sentences—something that’s about 520 characters. (Your word processor’s word count feature should give a character count as well.) See if you can edit that passage down to 420 characters. Cut unnecessary words—even unnecessary sentences. Replace big words with smaller ones. Find anything that isn’t essential and cut ruthlessly.
Now take a look.
Many—even most—times, you’ll be shocked at how much cleaner and crisper your writing is…all without losing an ounce of your message. Other times, you’ll find that your words lose a little power in the cutting. But even at times like these, you’ll likely discover a few bits of flab that can go. A whole manuscript revision based on this technique with tiny chunks of text may be overkill, but it’s a great trick to use on sections where the pace lags or which feel overly-wordy. And it’s a great exercise to use regularly to keep in the habit of writing tight.