"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


A blog for readers and writers

A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Guest Blog JANE MURISON On how to write tight

I've know Jane for about three years and I am delighted she is my very first guest blogger. She is an insightful, imaginative writer who follows her own rules...
When we write, there are a lot of exercises for getting the juices flowing.  I thought it would be useful to talk about how to approach editing: how do you make something shorter, tighter and better?
I was recently preparing a story for a competition and had to take 600 words out of it to fit the 2000 word limit.  Tough!
There’s an easy start by applying some rules to your work.  You should make your own, but lots of authors have come up with lists of these.  The Guardian did a terrific collection of them a few months ago.
My favourites are:
-       Don’t use speech words other than ‘said’ (‘proclaimed’, ‘yelled’, ‘whispered’),
-       Don’t use adverbs (‘he said, brutally’)
-       Avoid opinionated 3rd person narrator (‘Mary was a daft old trollop’)
-       Don’t say the same thing in different ways (‘The leather bag was cracked and dusty.  It was old and broken.”)

All well and good, but there’s an indefinable ‘something’ you want to get into your writing.  It’s that horrible question you keep asking, ‘but is it any good?’
If you’re into design, you’ll have come across Dieter Rams 10 rules for good design. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieter_Rams
There is a way of adapting these for writing. But they can serve as a way to allow you to step away from the thing you spun from air and let you look at it as if you are impartial.


* Good writing is innovative
* Good writing tells you something
* Good writing is aesthetic
* Good writing is understandable/accessible
* Good writing is unobtrusive
* Good writing is honest
* Good writing is long-lasting
* Good writing is thorough down to the last detail
* Good writing has a soul
* Good writing is as little writing as possible


Perhaps you don’t agree with all of them, or you want to define them your own way.
Thank you Jane and thank you for expressing something I've felt for a long time. Good writing isn't cynical. Good writing has integrity. Good writing is straight from the heart to the page.

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