Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rehash~What's Old is New?

I'm a bit pressed for time today (and honestly, my brain is really tired) so I think I will 'rehash' something from the Land's Edge archives from last year. There were a few comments in the last post about the night time harbour photo from Signal Hill in downtown St. John's. Those of you who have been following this blog since last fall or so may recall that I posted a few photos taken by a 'Harbour Cam' mounted on top of The Rooms, the provincial museum that sits up the hill from the harbour.


This is another view of the harbour, taken this morning by that camera, looking in a northeasterly direction. I have included a second photo from the camera taken about this time last year. It's the one with the cruise ship. You can see Signal Hill to the left of the 'narrows', the small opening into the harbour. If you look closely (or if you are of my vintage...put on your glasses) you can see Cabot Tower sitting on top of Signal Hill. It is best know for being the site where Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic wireless message from Cornwall, England in 1901.

You can link to the Harbour Cam at the CBC (Newfoundland) web site here for a view updated every five minutes. Go to the 'features' section in the middle and then the bottom right block is the link. I understand that only Canadian locations can view video clips on the CBC site, hopefully this does not apply to the Harbour Cam. Let me know if it's a problem to access it (though there's nothing I can do about it).


More rehash...this blog was meant as a means to connect with other writers in order to share information, and perhaps share a few laughs. I think I have gotten away from the writing basics, so I return to the class notes and present fine 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 know, pretty dry stuff...yet useful all the same. The first two, I think, are especially handy in the flash fiction arena where brevity is important.

14 comments:

Laura Eno said...

I think writing flash helps to hone those skills, making longer pieces easier to write without the 'fat'.

Good post. It never hurts to be reminded of these points.

The only thing better would have been the fez picture...

Rebecca Nazar said...

I like that last one. Too many esoteric metaphors can become tedious.

Cathy Olliffe said...

Not dry. I agree with all of it.
Looking at your photos all I can think is -I'm -gonna-be-there, na-na-na-na-na-na...

katey said...

Yeah, those are things I think most people (I'd say "all" but that seems a bit much, I guess) need this reminder now and again. Thanks for that, Alan.

<3 Harbour Cam!

Wulfie said...

Nice write up. I especially liked the stuff on writing. I've been away from writing (as a 'writer') for five or six years so I'm always looking for refreshers on writing stories rather than newspaper articles and reviews.

And you live in a beautiful place.

Laurita said...

Good pointers and lovely pictures. The harbour is so pretty from a distance. Just don't get too close...

Bukowski's Basement said...

Awesome pointers, Alan... Not dry in the least

Alan W. Davidson said...

Laura- You know that the fez only comes out on special occassions! I think the flash writing the past few months has definately improved my writing, especially in cutting the 'fat'.

Becca- Very true. It's a fine line to walk at times. It's easier to spot that in the work of others than one's own work...

Cathy- Hey, don't taunt the readers! Look forward to seeing you out here at Land's Edge!
Just watch that last step...it's a killer!

Katey- The harbour cam is a neat thing to check in on once in a while.

Wulfie- Thanks (on both points). The weather can be a bit rought here, but the scenery more than makes up for it.

Laurita- THanks. I hear ya about the harbour, sister! ;)

Ant- Glad you liked them. It's good to peek at the old notes now and then.

daniellelapaglia said...

Great post, Alan. They're all things we've heard or read, but it's always good to get a reminder. I agree with Laura, writing flash helps with many of these things when you translate it into your longer works. And beautiful photos!

Natalie L. Sin said...

The second to last rule is my favorite.

Danielle Ferries said...

All very useful comments. Thanks for sharing :)

Cate Gardner said...

Good advice, Alan. Good advice.

Helen Ginger said...

Your points are ones we should tack up on the bulletin board near our computers. Thanks. (Loved the pictures.)

kathryn said...

Great (and very true) writing tips. Now, I'm mentally going over every run-on sentence I've ever said...