Thursday, May 20, 2010

Making Every Word Tell

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 subject only in outline, but that every word tell.
               --Strunk and White
               The Elements of Style

As I plunge into this new stage of writing with all ten fingers--the grinding, exhilarating light-footed slog of revision--I try to keep quotes like this from Mr. Strunk and Mr. White close at hand.  Even as I work past my impatience to be done with this novel and move on to the next (and the next and the next), I must control myself, narrow my focus down to the page, and make every word tell.

As Hemingway once said in a letter to Max Perkins:  "I never use a word if I can avoid it, but if I must have it I know it."

And so I write, scalpel in hand.

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