BE GOOD TO YOUR READER

jumpy things

I took Stein with me to Monkey Joe’s and settled into a black leather vibrating chair in an area devoted to parents, grandparents and other responsible adults while the men’s semi-finals at Wimbledon played on one TV screen and some guys tossed a basketball on the other. My three grandsons scampered towards the inflated jumpy things and I focused on Stein.

Stein on Writing is another book I go to for a creative transfusion or craft update. I wouldn’t have known about Sol Stein if Marilyn, my writing friend, hadn’t warned me one day to be good to my reader. Keeping the reader curious, aroused, entertained, satisfied is the goal of good writing. Hmm, sounds like good advice for lovers as well. But hey we’re talking about writing here—as does Stein, including both fiction and non-fiction. His book is not about writing theory but “usable solutions—how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place.” I can vouch that he delivers on those promises.

I was getting Stein’s take on editing, which is what I’m doing now with my own book when I’m not at Monkey Joe’s. In spite of the din around me, I devoured both chapters on revisions of fiction and non-fiction plus reread several of my favorite sections of Stein on Writing before I led three sweaty boys out of Monkey Joe’s.

Some advice on editing from Stein:

  • Is the opening scene sufficiently visual to be seen by the reader and provoke curiosity?
  • Do summarized areas lose the reader’s attention? If so, convert summarized material to scenes or shorten.
  • Is there occasional tension or suspenseful interest created by withholding information or asking a question?
  • Eliminate most adverbs and adjectives.
  • Cut clichés.
  • Replace or cut similes and metaphors that don’t work.
  • Vary the length of sentences.
  • Make every word count.
  • Fix major problems before beginning a front to back, page-by-page revision. (worth reading this section of his book for an explanation)

What else would you add to the list?