"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Writers' advice, part 1.

A compendium (never use that word, or parentheses) of my comments on my students' feature stories handed back today--covered with red marks.

No tears, but some shocked looks--but of course I have to call them up one by one to make the points and translate my handwriting. They get two revisions. First due next Thursday, with first version stapled to the back. Yes, each of these came with suggestions for improvement.

  • "Don't use the word 'very.' Put in "damn' instead and you'll take it out. "It has been very successful. It has been damn successful."
  • "You have the 'according to' disease. Don't start a sentence with 'according to' or use it as attribution. It delays getting to the point, and besides, means 'in accordance with.'"
  • "Yawn." (wordy).
  • "Term paper language. No body reads term papers for fun."
  • "He 'transitioned'? When did you ever 'transition' any where?"
  • "He is truly happy (as opposed to falsely)?"
  • "Ugh." (written on top of trite--"learning the ropes," "under his belt," etc.)
  • "What do you mean she was 'mature'?" Show me, don't tell.
  • "Cut and slash, like Sherman through Georgia. You've got diarrhea of words."
  • Last name, last name, last name--after first name. Not the first."
  • "A quote followed by a sentence throughout the entire story is not a story--it's running off at the mouth."
  • "A long quote dilutes the power of short ones. Paraphrase the long ones."
  • "I'm variously various in my writing--don't use the same word twice in a sentence."
  • "How many words in that sentence? Count them. 42. If you can't say a sentence in one breath, it's too long."
  • Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Go for the drama."
  • "Would you keep reading this? I wouldn't if I didn't have to grade it and make you improve it."
More later, including some positive ones

1 comment:

  1. I can remember hearing quite a few of those at some point, perhaps it was news reporting. I still remember them though, they've stuck with me.

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