Go big or go home doesn’t work anymore. The rage these days is
tiny - as in tiny house. People are down-sizing for about a hundred different
reasons, to include: lower utility cost, mobility, smaller carbon footprint,
releasing their grip on material things and getting back to the basics. The list
goes on and on, and for every person who chooses this lifestyle, the reasons are
But – yea, there’s that nasty qualifier – the other side of the
shiny new coin –
Living in a tiny house means taking advantage of every inch,
high and low. I’ve gone tiny a couple of times, once even when I had three
demanding teenagers still at home. I can truthfully say that letting go of the
luxury of a large space and too many toys is more difficult than having teeth
I learned something else about living in a tiny house; Kids need
their own spaces and their own décor even more than mom needs a working kitchen
and dad needs his TV.
How does this translate to writing for young adults? Exactly the
same. Kids have specific needs when it comes to their reading material. Short
chapters, punch, color, style, and make every word count. Teen aged girls want
to melt at the touch of that first kiss. Boys want their hearts to pound and
sweat roll down their faces as that final battle is won – or lost. Young readers
want to soar as the wizard takes flight and they want to shed tears when the dog
And the writer’s responsibility is to get those kids to that
point without boring them to the point of tossing that book on the bed and
picking up their X-box.
Word economy is the same as space economy. In a tiny house the
designer must dig deep and use every imaginable idea, even inventing new
techniques to provide a satisfying and functional living experience. Of course
you can use the space under the stairs for storage, but who ever thought about
actually putting drawers under each stair tread? Use every inch – use every
1. Find the words that make up the ‘airspace’ in your story: that, then, there, and all
those had/have been, and was. Trust me there’s more than you think, and once
you start excavating them out and replacing them with stronger more vibrant
verbs and descriptors, the story will take on a new life. Oh, how I wish for a
great verb dictionary, but I sure do depend on my thesaurus.
2. Weed out the passive. Use words that pack a punch. Just like a murphy bed with a
bench seat or a small fold-out table under it creates two rooms in one, write
lines that move and add tension all at the same time. That full paragraph
describing the escape from a horrible monster will pump up the action when
condensed into one or two great lines. It does take practice, about like doing
push-ups when you’re over fifty.
3. Mirrors make a small space appear larger the same way showing and dialogue brings a
reader closer to the action than telling and narration does. For example: She
cried when he drove away. Or, Tears trailed streaks of mascara down her cheeks
to her trembling chin and the lump growing in her throat choked back her words,
“I’ll miss you.” Okay, that was, in fact, more words, but also more emotion.
4. Add voice the way you add color and accessories to your living space. Eggshell
colored bare walls are as boring as having every character speak the same way.
Sure your grammar checker may go a little nutty, but your characters will float
off the pages and into your reader’s hearts if they don’t all speak perfect
English (or Spanish). Keep in mind, of course, that less is often better, and
too much is just clutter.
5. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Same old-same old won’t turn heads. While it’s
advisable to read and attempt to emulate the greats like Anna Sewell and Mary
Shelly, whose books, after centuries are still on the shelves, you must attempt
to build a better mouse-trap. If horror is your cup of tea, try, if you dare,
to read the original version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. (I only got 20% into it
on my Kindle before I had nightmares for a month!) Read them, learn from them,
but for heaven’s sake, try something new. They did, and so did J.K.Rowling.
So, how do you downsize and compact your writing, and when was
the last time you tried to re-invent the wheel?