So I'm thinking that it's again time to flip through the ever-useful class notes for fine pieces of advice from the experts. One hand-out was from Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay by Lederer & Dowis and offered up some useful points.
- Cut the Verbal Clutter. Train yourself to write with fewer words. Your readers will love you for it. If you can make twenty-five words do the work of fifty, you have reduced by half the amount of material the reader must assimilate to get the intended message.
- Keep it Simple. Contrary to what some people seem to believe, simple writing is not the product of simple minds. A simple, unpretentious style has both grace and power. By not calling attention to itself it allows the reader to focus on the message.
- Don't Overstuff Your Sentences. As a general rule, a sentence should have no more than one main idea. We emphasize general because this rule, like so many others, is violated by some good writers.
- Train the Ear. Writing is at once a visual and aural medium. Although not all writing is intended to be read aloud, most good writing can be read aloud with no detrimental effect. It is important, therefore, for anyone who wants to write well to train the ear to recognize the good and bad aural qualities.
- Help the Reader. An often-repeated axiom is that communication is a two-way street. But clear communication is the responsibility of the writer, not the reader. The writer must therefore give the reader all possible help in understanding what is written.
- Watch Your Language. Words mean things. You can no more write well without using words well than a composer can create a symphony without understanding rhythm and harmony. Good writers know that connotations are often more important than definitions, and that the true meaning of a word or phrase is the effect it has on readers.
- Set Your Work in Concrete. If the purpose of writing is to convey ideas and information, then unnecessary or unintended abstraction defeats the purpose. The more concrete the writing, the more precise the message it conveys.
I can hold up my hand and say, "Guilty as charged" on many of those points. On the odd occasion that I get off my lazy arse and write something, I find that I dwell too much on the sentences I am writing, as I am writing them. My last instructor was a big fan of 'Just Get the Information Down on Paper.' Write for an hour, don't correct anything. Just let the information flow. A good and useful point. When I am being productive, I'm worrying too much about the final product. The feedback I get most often is "Good prose, but a bit too flowery."
As Lederer & Dowis noted in the points above, I think that I'm going to have to work on sticking to my message and present it more clearly. I can't help but feel this would be of great help to me if I am to participate in NaNoWriMo this year (umm...jury is still out on that).