Tag: Writing (home)

"I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter."

permalink source: Blaise Pascal
tags: Communication, Brevity, Writing

To write simply is as difficult as to be good.

permalink source: W. Sommerset Maugham
tags: Writing

The point of good writing is knowing when to stop. –

permalink source: L.M. Montgomery
tags: Brevity, Writing

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

permalink source: George Orwell
tags: Writing

The problem with the good advice is it's mostly much too simple. Joe Straczinski told me about the time that he, when young, got hold of Harlan Ellison's phone number and phoned him up. He explained that he was a young writer and nobody would publish him. According to Joe, Harlan said "They won't publish you because you're writing crap. Stop writing crap and they'll publish you." Which was very good advice, and Joe took it. But it's sort of simple.

permalink source: Neil Gaiman
tags: Excellence, Wisdom, Writing, Advice

By Roy Peter Clark ... Begin by cutting the big stuff. Donald Murray taught me that "brevity comes from selection, not compression." That requires lifting whole parts from the work... If your goal is to achieve precision and concision, begin by pruning the big limbs. You can shake out the dead leaves later. * Cut any passage that does not support the focus of the story. * Cut the weakest quotations, anecdotes, or scenes to give greater power to the strongest. * Cut any passage you have written just to avoid prosecutorial editing. * Don't invite editors to cut. You know the story better. Mark "optional trims." Should they become actual cuts? ... Here are some targets for cuts. Look for: 1. Adverbs that intensify rather than modify: just, certainly, entirely, extremely, completely, exactly. 2. Prepositional phrases that repeat the obvious: in the story, in the article, in the movie, in the city. 3. Phrases that grow on verbs: seems to, tends to, should have to, tries to. 4. Abstract nouns that contain active verbs: consideration becomes considers; judgment becomes judges; observation becomes observes. 5. Restatements: a sultry, humid afternoon. http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=74825

permalink source: Writing Tool #34, Cut Big, Then Small
tags: Writing

A rule says, "You <i>must</i> do it <i>this way</i>. A principle says, "This <i>works</i>... and has through all remembered time." The difference is crucial. Your work needn't be modeled after a "well made" play; rather, it must be <i>well-made</i> within the principles that shape our art. Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form.

permalink source: Robert McKee, Story, 3
tags: Rules, Art, Writing

If your dream were to compose music, would you say to yourself: "I've heard a lot of symphonies... I can also play the piano. I think I'll knock one out this weekend"? No. But that's exactly how many screenwriters begin: "I've seen a lot of flicks, some good and some bad... I got an A in English... vacation time's coming..." ... The novice plunges ahead, counting soley on experience, thinkng that the life he's lived and the films he's seen give him something to say and the way to say it. Experience, however, is overrated. Of course we want writers who don't hide from life, who live deeply, observe closely. This is vital but never enough. For most writers, the knowledge they gain from reading and study equals or outweighs experience, especially if that experience goes unexamined. <i>Self-knowledge</i> is the key--life <i>plus</i> deep reflection on our reactions to life.

permalink source: Robert McKee, Story, 15
tags: Preaching, Personal Growth, Writing

As for technique, what the novice mistakes for craft is simply his unconscious absorption of story elements from every novel, film, or play he's ever encountered. As he writes, he matches his | work by trial and error against a model built up from accumulated reading and watching. The unschooled writer calls this "instinct," but it's merely habit and it's rigidly limiting.

permalink source: Robert McKee, Story, 15-16
tags: Preaching, Personal Growth, Writing

This suggests a word of advice to such of my hearers as may happen to be professors. I am allowed to use plain English because everybody knows that I could use mathematical logic if I chose. Take the statement: "Some people marry their deceased wives' sisters". I can express this in language which only becomes intelligible after years of study, and this gives me freedom. I suggest to young professors that their first work should be written in a jargon only to be understood by the erudite few. With that behind them, they can ever after say what they have to say in a language "understanded of the people". In these days, when our very lives are at the mercy of the professors, I cannot but think that they would deserve our gratitude if they adopted my advice.

permalink source: Bertrand Russell, How I Write, http://www.solstice.us/russell/write.html
tags: Writing

Clear writing leads to clear thinking. You don't know what you know until you try to express it. Good writing is partly a matter of character. Instead of doing what's easy for you, do what's easy for your reader.

permalink source: Michael A. Covington, Professor of Computer Science at The University of Georgia, http://www.ai.uga.edu/mc/WriteThinkLearn_files/frame.htm
tags: Writing

Try and be concise and clear. Don't just ramble on ad nauseum. As Alexander Pope said "Perspicuity is the chiefest virtue of a style." My students often ask me what will happen if they go over the page limit on their papers. I tell them, you will find a comment on the bottom of the last expected page which says "This was a good paper, but it ended rather abruptly."

permalink source: Ben Witherington, http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2007/03/ten-commandments-on-blogging-on-this.html
tags: Brevity, Writing