The other day, I was booked for a storytelling show, which was great. The not-so-great part was I had to cut my story by one third. To be more specific, 550 words. I spent considerable time in denial, dreaming that the problem would go away magically.

For a few days, I didn’t even look at my script, thinking…Every sentence, every paragraph is important. This story is meant to be at least 10 minutes long. If I make it short, it will lose the essence that I try to convey. It’s not going to work!

Then, I remembered the article, “Word Diet,” which I wrote about four years ago. In the article, I asked the following three questions to operate a serious surgery.

  • Is this dialogue relevant to my story?
  • If I lose this scene, does my story change?
  • What do I want to tell in this paragraph?

Finally, I took the bull by the horns. Surprisingly, the challenge wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. When I kept asking those questions, the answers were clear. And I had a fun time finding better verbs to replace adjectives and adverbs. Within an hour, I was able to cut it down to what it needed to be. And when I read it to the writers who had heard the long version before, they agreed that the short version still has the same story beats and emotional arc as the longer one.

If you haven’t tried the Word Diet, try it at least once. You may see your story from a different perspective.