Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An Iron Rule of Writing Physics

'Hard writing makes easy reading.'
--Wallace Stegner (1909-1993).
Okay, so if you wanted to sample his best, what would it be? No doubt his masterpiece epic novel, Angle of Repose, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer, and about which he once observed: 'It's perfectly clear that if every writer is born to write one story, that's my story.'

4 Comments:

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Buster said...

Strunk's dictum, "Omit needless words," struck a nerve with me. I often revisit what I have written on my web site, looking for more succinct ways to say things. But it seems to me that a professional writer must sometimes be conflicted between the aesthetic desire to compress and the commercial pressure to fill space. Is this a factor in your writing?

 
At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Buster said...

I read the Donald Trump chapter of Mark Singer's book, "Character Studies", since, thanks to my wife, I watch a lot of "The Apprentice" on TV.

Although the essay must be about 10 years old, it fleshed out my understanding of the man. You know you are seeing a stage-managed Trump persona on TV, but I hadn't been aware just how much he is all about persona and horn-tooting in his "real life."

I love it on the show when he introduces the latest Mrs. Trump. He seems to be saying to the contestants, "You like this? You can't have this."

 
At 11:55 AM, Anonymous r.e.moura said...

So, what inspired you to pick up read Stegner’s novel? Aren’t you a non-fiction man? As for roldo, many years ago there were various tributes to his invaluable, contrarian contributions. At that time, I think some also rationalized that he might not be around much longer, given health issues, and that real-time acknowledgement and appreciation is much better than the posthumous kind. Of course, being the ultimate contrarian and annoyance, Roldo thankfully decided to stick around and continue being his typical pain in the Cleveland establishment arse. So acknowledging Roldo’s birthday is probably akin to acknowledging that the Cleveland orchestra celebrated another anniversary. They’ve been around forever, they’re impressive, Cleveland is lucky to have them, and thanks for the update, but no great need to comment. Pretty much everything that can be said, has been… As for Imus, one posting on MSNBC’s message board really crystallized the way I view the whole asinine affair: “We will never get anywhere [with race relations] as long as both sides continue to quibble over the remarks of idiots.” What a lot of wasted time and energy and what an incredible level of hypocritical posturing. Someone save us from ourselves…

 
At 1:14 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Buster, you've brought up a crucial issue, this thing about brevity. And no, I never feel pulled between being concise and filling up space. The longer you do this work, the better you become (one hopes) at saying what you want to and need to with increasingly fewer words. While that might mean that any one piece of writing is tighter and more focused, you also tend to accumuluate many more topics about which you care enough to write. So if you do it right, if you pay attention and remain interested in the world, you'll have an exploding number of things to write about, and the tools to do it more concisely.

As for you, REM, I haven't read that Stegner novel. As a service to readers who might want to learn more about him, I was merely suggesting his best work. Yes, I am a nonfiction guy, but that doesn't mean I don't read any fiction. More importantly, it doesn't mean I don't have an awful lot to learn from great fiction. I couldn't agree more with you about Roldo--what more can be said about him? And I love that comment from the MSNBC message boards. I'd wholeheartedly agree with that.

 

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