Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good writing advice

I OFTEN LIKE TO LOOK at writing quotations for advice.

Take E.B. White, being clever, "Be obscure clearly."

Then there's modern writer Elmore Leonard, explaining how to write tight: "I try to leave out the parts that people skip. "

I get very, very, very tired of the word very, and Mark Twain obviously agreed with me: "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'," he wrote. "Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be." Hey, if you said someone was gigantic, would you need to say that he was very gigantic?

James Michener, meanwhile, understood the need for self-editing: "I'm not a very good writer," he said, "but I'm an excellent rewriter." (He was a good writer, too.)

Winston Churchill was not a fan of subtlety. "If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever," he said. "Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack."

Isaac Bashevis Singer knew that writers sometimes need to let their writing go: "The wastebasket is a writer's best friend."

Isaac Asimov was one of my favorite writers, and he and his wife Janet had this bit of advice for writers: "Children like to read about success, whether it's winning the hand of the best princess or prince, saving a life, helping people who need it, beating the other team in the game of the year, or discovering another universe."

My favorite bit of advice came from Anton Chekhov: "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." 

And you can almost see the blood dripping on the glass.

Happy writing.

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