For Goodness Sakes, Be Brief

“For Goodness Sakes, Be Brief” – I thought it was a cool title, and could think of nothing else to put there. There I go again. I could have left off the first sentence, and come to think of it, this one too. Left them out in the cold cold darkness of never existed and if it did, leave it in the garbage can or dustbin, you choose.

I’ve struggled all my writing speaking life with being brief. I love words. I love the sound and sight of them, especially my own. But, alas, I have had to learn to clip, truncate and edit my words down to the ‘only necessaries.’

I found it wins more hearers, readers etc. People look at an article, and unless you are famous, really famous, they will not read more than a sentence, if that, unless they can see the end from where they are sitting.

Blessed is the preacher who preaches short, for he will be invited back again.– from my circle of friends.

If no other bit of advice stuck into my heart it was this: Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings   -Elmore Leonard quoted by Stephen King but probably originating with William Faulkner’s “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.

Have you ever found yourself infatuated with a sentence of your own creation, yet down in your heart you knew it was Frankenstein’s Monster, which he wanted to be great but was horrendous. I have.
I have hovered over the delete key as I’ve edited my work, knowing it needed to go but doing everything to keep it. I have spent countless wasted creative minutes maybe hours trying to make that sentence work. You too? I thought so.

So, in closing I’m reminded of something learned from the author I admire most for his storytelling ability, Stephen King.
He received a scribbled comment at the bottom of a rejection slip that changed the way he rewrote his fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this note: 

“Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. 
Formula: 2nd  Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.”

I’ve taken this to heart and it has served me well. Twitter has helped with its damned 140 character limit.
Still I came back and added this next line.

I am so well know for going long, I’ve requested this on my headstone when I die, because it’s what i am guilty of saying at the end of every conversation- “Just one more thing…” 
I never stop. God help me.

If you’d like to leave a comment and find the form tedious comment on my twitter feed @mikeyznsacto or Facebook M. Matheson

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