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    MsJacquiiC Poetica Magnifique

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    Generally speaking there are two types of writer: those who write ‘cleanly’ and those who do not. Examples of ‘clean’ writers are Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, George Orwell, Elmore Leonard, Eric Ambler, Mark Timlin and Ross Macdonald. I won’t bother listing any of the other kind.


    Clean, clear writing is enjoyable to read. And when reading is a pleasure, then ideas are easier to put across.
    Practically every bad writer you come across will be a ‘dirty’ writer. Most amateurs fall into the trap of trying to write too cleverly. They burden their prose with dirt: flowery adjectives, long similes, obese sentences and so on. In the process they obscure what they mean to say and bore their readers. Clean, clear writing is enjoyable to read. And when reading is a pleasure, then ideas are easier to put across.

    1. Short sentences are best. Really. But it is best to avoid. If you can. Making them too jumpy. And disjoined. Because…

    2. Your writing should have a rhythm. Prose, like poetry, should flow smoothly. A good way of ensuring flow and eliminating ‘sharp edges’ is to read aloud what you’ve written.

    3. Shorter paragraphs are easier to read. Your first paragraph should be succinct and snappy, enticing the reader to carry on. That principle should continue, on a less stringent level, throughout your work. Designers know that plenty of white space on a page attracts people – the same goes for readers. That’s why many potential purchasers skim through a book’s pages before they decide to buy it.

    4. Never use any word other than ‘said’ to indicate dialogue. Plus, when saying who is speaking, steer clear of adverbs. There’s nothing worse than a flow of dialogue that goes: ‘What did you say?’ asked Jane menacingly. ‘You heard me,’ Dennis said loudly. ‘I did not,’ muttered Jane angrily. ‘Oh, of course you didn’t,’ mocked Dennis, sarcastically. Your readers will accuse you of writing annoyingly.

    5. Avoid cliches like the plague.

    6. Be positive in your writing. Instead of saying: ‘Few readers would not want to read writing that is positive in stance’ say: ‘Most readers enjoy positive writing’. Unless you are writing for effect, it is always best (and less boring) to put things positively. Instead of ‘The letter was on the table when John found it’, say ‘John found the letter on the table’.

    When writing a report or sales-pitch avoid using negatives: ‘There are only one or two failures in every hundred tests.’ is better put as ‘Initial tests have shown a success rate in excess of 98%’.

    7. Miss out unnecessary long words. If you, or the average reader, has to consult a dictionary in order to define a word’s meaning, then you should leave it out. The only exception to this rule is when there is literally no other word that will do. Personally, I have not encountered this situation since leaving school. The English language is abundant in alternative meanings, and most of them can be simply put.

    8. Is it necessary? Elmore Leonard puts it very well when he says he ‘try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip’. In a novel, do we really need to know everything the characters do, even if it has no impact on the action? For example, during the course of the average novel the characters will go to the toilet hundreds of times, drink dozens of cups of tea or coffee and watch TV or read a book or newspaper in their spare moments. How many of these do we need to hear about? Boring the reader is almost as bad as writing something they don’t understand.

    9. Avoid detailed descriptions. Especially of your characters. When people read a novel they like to visualise the characters for themselves, not have a minutely-detailed description spoon-fed them. And the point at which 64% of people abandon novels is halfway through yet another long and detailed description. Who cares what colour the curtains/drapes are? Do we really want to hear about what kinds of cars are parked on
    the street when the hero arrives? (The answer is ‘no’.)

    10. Kill your darlings. Edit ruthlessly and cut out anything that isn’t absolutely necessary, even – some will say ‘especially’ – bits you are particularly proud of. Make it plain, make it clear, make your writing look effortless.

    Remember Elmore Leonard’s golden rule:
    ‘If it sounds like writing, re-write it.’

    --------------

    Jim Driver is a writer and publisher.

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    Posted By MsJacquiiC | Jan 31, 2008
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    MsJacquiiC Poetica Magnifique

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    Interesting article - I'm not quite sure if I agree with #4 though - using "said" all the time to indicate dialogue can become quite tedius and tiresome...

    Jacquii.


    Posted By MsJacquiiC | Jan 31, 2008
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    butchiesmom JPiC Premium VIP Member

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    I printed this and a couple of other articles you posted. I haven't read this one yet, but can honestly say these articles have helped with my writing and the way I think as I do.

    I'm glad you're doing this, Jaquii!
    Gail
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    MsJacquiiC Poetica Magnifique

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    :wow: Very nice - I'm glad someone's getting a bit of extra advice from the Articles Database ;)

    Glad to be of help GAIL!

    Jacquii.


    Posted By MsJacquiiC | Jan 31, 2008
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    PaintedDiary JPiC Mentor

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    Me too Gail! I have started a filing cabinet of writing tips and help for writing! Thank You Ms Jacquii!!

    Kim ;)
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    MsJacquiiC Poetica Magnifique

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    No prob GIRL - Glad to help ;)

    Jacquii.


    Posted By MsJacquiiC | Jan 31, 2008
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