Go to the Well

People go to wells for many reasons– water…wishes…words?

I enjoy receiving book recommendations.  Recently someone suggested On Writing Well  by William Zinsser.  Since it’s a guide for nonfiction writing, I paused before picking it up.  But then I thought, why not?  Thank goodness I did.  Turns out the wisdom found in its pages works for all kinds of writers.

Here are some highlights!

“Ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is.”

When writing, go in search of humanity and warmth.  “Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading…”

My favorite chapter is titled “Clutter.”  Follow this advice to help declutter your writing.

  • Don’t follow a verb with a preposition (“order up”)
  • Don’t add an adverb when the verb itself does the job (“smile happily”)
  • Don’t add an adjective that states a known fact (“tall skyscraper”)
  • Avoid using qualifiers that weaken the sentence (“a bit,” “sort of”)
  • Avoid using phrases that don’t mean anything (“in a sense”)
  • Avoid following up a sentence with another sentence that essentially says the same thing.  (You can also cut sentences that give info readers don’t really need to know or can figure out on their own.)

Astonishing fact: “Most first drafts can be cut by 50 percent without losing any information or losing the author’s voice.”

***How do we get our own style?***

Trick question!  “First…learn to hammer the nails, and if what you build is sturdy and serviceable, take satisfaction in its plain strength.”

If anything, “Sell yourself…Believe in your own identity and your own opinions.  Writing is an act of ego…Use its energy to keep yourself going.”

Here’s some advice on fear and confidence from humorist S. J. Perelman.  “The reader has to feel that the writer is feeling good…Even if he isn’t.”

“Writers have to jump-start themselves at the moment of performance, no less than actors and dancers and painters and musicians…You also have to [be the one to] turn on the switch.  Nobody is going to do it for you.”

And what’s my new mantra from this book?  “Get on the plane.”  You never know where your words will take you.  But they won’t take you anywhere, unless you have the courage to write them.

Advertisements

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anne
    Dec 05, 2013 @ 01:18:53

    Great advice for anyone. It really made me think about how I approach a task.

    Reply

  2. Trackback: This Thanksgiving, Put Your Novel on a Diet | Artwork and Musings by Angie Kidd

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

%d bloggers like this: