Freewrite Friday · Original Writing · Writing Life

Freewrite Friday: Write Like a Skeleton

Verbose. Loquacious. Garrulous. Voluble. Effusive.

I’m the kind of person who will keep you up and talk to you until 4 in the morning. I’m the kind of person who has hour-and-a-half phone conversations. I’m the kind of person that will corner you at work to discuss educational theory for an entire free period.

So it makes sense that one of my most prominent flaws as a writer is that I’m WAY too wordy. I use three adjectives when one will do. I use paragraphs to describe a room when I could have used just three sentences. I’ll write a two-page poem that could have been only two stanzas.

As you can probably imagine, I do a ton of revision in order to really shrink down my writing to the essential. So, today, for our Skeleton Freewrite Friday, we are going to attempt to write like a skeleton and get our writing down to its bare bones.


Write like a skeleton by taking something old you’ve written and revising it so that you strip it down to its bare elements.

My Example

Original Paragraph: 

The Scripton College Reading Garden was a garden of living paper, a garden of organic word.  Here, all the stories of all the ages of all the worlds grew and thrived among each other to create a living library. The garden expanded impossibly onto what seemed to Arcadia like acres and acres of archive. Trees grouped together creating small groves on top of hills which curved and sloped like the delicate turn of a page. And all of this was punctuated by the low tones of a stream of dark blue ink that flourished through the garden like calligraphy.    

Skeleton Paragraph:

The Reading Garden was living paper, word organic. The garden expanded across acres of archive where the stories of every age and world thrived. Paper trees grouped together atop curving hills which sloped like turning pages. The low tones of  an inky stream punctuated the garden like sweeping calligraphy.

Even More Skeletal Paragraph:

Living paper, organic word. Stories grew like living library over acres of archive. Trees groved atop sloping hills like turning pages. The low tones of inky stream punctuated the silent garden.

My take:

I like how the first couple of sentences worked in their semi-skeleton form. I think I honestly will change that in my manuscript. However, the second part of the second paragraph would need to be revised even more or deleted entirely (perhaps combined with another paragraph or more action which comes later in this chapter).

I actually like the “Even More Skeletal” paragraph because it reminds me of poetry which makes my inner-poet sing. In general, I really liked using this exercise especially with descriptive passages. I need to learn how to tighten up some of these long paragraphs to incorporate more action and meaningful dialogue in my fiction.

One of my beautiful colleagues also thought this would be a perfect way to unpack dense description in literary texts (she’s teaching Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter right now). So teacher friends, this could totally work as a lesson as well!

What do you guys think? Do you like the Skeleton paragraphs or the Original one better? How did you do with stripping down one of your poems or stories? Comment below! 

Lit & Love,

Amy Signature

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