…another dollop of WURDS of wisdom from my pal, Author, Tony McManus…

…my pal, Author, Tony McManus, offers more superb advice for yer writing, Lads and Lassies of Blog Land…

tony

THE GOLDEN RULE

Shakespeare was a master of it. Ernest Hemingway almost perfected it. George Orwell advocated it. And every writer should obey and apply it, particularly in editing and revision. Observe it when writing a memo, email, a Facebook post, a blog or a prize-winning masterwork. It applies to every kind of writing. It’s rule number one, the most important and never to be broken. Make every word count. It speaks for itself when you think about it, yet, it’s a rule regularly violated. Why?

It’s apparent to me that most writers today don’t apply it. Maybe they’ve never heard of the rule and its importance in good writing. I got it drilled into me at school from strict teachers. “Make every word count.”

Writers disregard for it is especially evident in fiction writing, and more especially in self-published works on Amazon Kindle. It seems the opposite is now in vogue (see my blog: Padding it Out: Word Inflation in Fiction). We find writers deliberately inflating their work using a variety of methods such as redundant sentences, unnecessary sub-plots, overblown or meaningless dialogue, wordy descriptions of characters and places and, of course, vivid and gratuitous sex scenes.

I believe that writers often come up with a story idea that is essentially a good short story plot but doesn’t have the legs to be the heart of a novel or even a novella. Consequently they pad it out, often under editorial encouragement. It’s common; it’s sad but true.

The corollary of the rule is: that every single word should build sentences and paragraphs that drive the plot forward, establish the setting and develop characters. If it doesn’t, take it out.

I know a talented lady writer of short stories and novellas in the romantic erotica genre; not a genre I follow, mainly because it’s usually poorly written. But she writes it well, impressively so.

On her site she announced she was writing a novel; part one of a trilogy. A mystery thriller, set in an exotic Caribbean location, it opened well. But unfortunately, the story idea just couldn’t punch its weight. Consequently, the novel got the “padding” treatment; all of it, complete with an utterly gratuitous, and brutal, sex scene. I was most disappointed, but it’s par for the course.

The rule requires discipline and is not easy to apply. But if a writer keeps it in mind he goes a long way to achieving it. Reading good writing is also important as it shows how it should be done. In my view, a healthy literary diet is essential for writers and editors. It can, of course, be spiced it up with some literary junk with no harm done, but we become what we read. If a writer reads too much crap, he’ll write crap. If an editor reads too much crap, she’ll allow crap to pass her by uncorrected. The evidence for this abounds.

Shakespeare, as I mentioned, was a master of it. Go read him. Read a piece from one of his plays. Read a Sonnet. Then try to find a word you can take out. Here he is on Love:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

                     Admit impediments. Love is not love

                       Which alters when it alteration finds,

                       Or bends with the remover to remove:

                       O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,

                      That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;

                       It is the star to every wandering bark,

                       Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

On Valour:

Cowards die many times before their deaths.

                       The valiant never taste of death but once.

                       Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,

                       It seems to me most strange that men should fear,

                       Seeing that death, a necessary end,

                       Will come when it will come.

 

No redundancy there.

The rule also applies to the spoken word. Far too much meaningless verbiage comes out of peoples’ mouths and, no surprise here, politicians are especially guilty. Here’s a recent statement from British ex-prime minister Tony Blair pontificating on Muslim extremism.

“The reality is that in parts of the Muslim community a

discourse has grown up which is profoundly hostile to

peaceful coexistence. Countering this is an essential

part of fighting extremism.” (Flabby and overblown)

 

“In parts of the Muslim community, a discourse exists

hostile to peaceful coexistence. Countering this is an

essential part of fighting extremism.” (Better)

 

“Among Muslims, discourse hostile to religious tolerance

abounds. In combating extremism, it is essential to counter

such discourse.” (Much better)

 

I think the last word must go to that wonderful text, The Elements of Style.

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no

unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences,

for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary

lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that

the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail

and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

So, let us cut the flab and do it. Here’s to better writing and better reading. Cheers.

Tony McManus

Chiang Mai

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa, construction work in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. Tony pursues and advocates good health, via diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, kayaker and canoeist, he also loves hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

He is the author of an espionage novel: The Iran Deception based on his time in Israel. He recently published: Down And Out In The Big Mango, a collection of short stories set in Thailand. He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada.

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter

Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

Tony is the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

He has published several short stories:

Ray: http://amzn.to/1Ge6jq9

A Bangkok Solution: http://amzn.to/1A8LCuy

A Partner in Crime: http://amzn.to/1ENZpn2

The Bangkok SAS: http://amzn.to/1d5cVMb

He is presently working on two crime novels: A Bangkok Interlude, the first book in a series featuring sleuth Mike Villiers.

And The Sum of Things, the first book in a series featuring ex SAS hero, James Fallon.

 

…thanks , again, for the WURDS of wisdom, Tony… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

8 Comments

Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

8 responses to “…another dollop of WURDS of wisdom from my pal, Author, Tony McManus…

  1. A thorough and interesting piece, Tony. Thanks for sharing it, Seumas. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do try to follow this rule, honest I do!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yep (how short is that?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • K Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone. From: Seumas GallacherSent: Monday, 9 November 2015 3:39 PMTo: seumasgallacher@yahoo.comReply To: comment+p6twom88zszjtbbvjtvpwc95jps@comment.wordpress.comSubject: [Seumas Gallacher] Comment: “…another dollop of WURDS of wisdom from my pal, Author, Tony McManus…”

      a:hover { color: red; } a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; } a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; } a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; }

      /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ WordPress.com

      Like

  4. Yes, indeed. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s