Every two or three years, I pick up my copy of, On Writing Well, and read parts of it once again. As far as a writing book, this one is about as good as it gets. It is a book about writing nonfiction, the place where I started, but fiction writers could learn much from this book as well.
I have the 25th Anniversary Edition and it is 15 years old. The book has stood the test of time and for a good reason – it works. One of the reasons I like it is what others hate about the book, it is dated. Author William Zinsser often goes off course and writes about his favorite liberal politicians. I think that makes it fun, not everyone shares my view. But the advice to writers is still usable, solid advice.
On the first page, of his chapter on style he says, “Few people realize how badly they write. Nobody has shown them how much excess . . . . . . . has crept into their style.” That thought will keep a writer working hard on every paragraph.
I think of that quote often and try to cut out, always remembering what Elmore Leonard said in his famous, Ten Golden Rules of Writing, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”
Why all of this today, because I am editing? It is a chore I don’t always like, but it needs to be done. This particular book has been fun. For once I took the advice of all the writers who keep telling others to put it away for a while. Well, I did, about six years. So long I didn’t remember some parts and that makes it fun. I got so excited in some places that I dashed down the hallway, interrupted my wife in the sewing room, saying, “Listen to this, this is really good.”
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Not sure yet if it is all that good, but I do believe these parts will not become the parts that readers will skip.
Note – Still a couple of days left and my Christmas shopping is finished. Might be a record for me. The good times are here. One of our college student grandkids visited over the weekend and now we have three of the younger set here, 11, 8 and 6 and will get to have them around for several days. I write this as grandma gets them in and out of shower or bath. I did supper, pancakes, hash browns and sausage – it was a hit.
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