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Robert's Rules of Writing #38: Strip Down to Your Briefs

[Rule quoted from Robert's Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know by Robert Masello (Writer's Digest Books, 2005). See my original post for the rules of this discussion.]

Is it better to write long or to write short?

With rule #38, Masello examines that question. In his essay, he cites the story of the man who wrote a long letter and apologized that he didn't have the time to make it shorter. Masello's advice is very simple: when you're first writing, get down everything that you'd possibly want to write. But once you've done that, go back and whittle out everything unnecessary to make your point.

In the spirit of this rule, I will simply say that I agree.

Comments

"In the spirit of this rule, I will simply say that I agree."

Hee.
Yay! So I've been doing something right all along! (My own work is overwritten largely because I'm writing out of order, so I cover the same elements from several angles, not yet knowing which approach(es) I'll keep. But I also enjoy working out just why a character is reacting in a certain way.)

This topic was mentioned in the screenwriting class I attended in my few months of film school. The instructor pointed out that if your script is overwritten, you can always trim it, but if it's too short, you have to pad and padding almost always shows. His concern was primarily length rather than content, but the message translates.

Now if I can just convince my coworkers that my long-windedness is a virtue .... :>

(Anonymous)

Keep whittling!

"In the spirit of this rule, I will simply say that I agree." (13 words)

Ahem!

"In the spirit of this rule, I agree." (8 words)

OR

"In that spirit, I agree." (5 words)

OR

"I agree." (2 words)

OR

"Precisely!" (1 word)


STEVE O.

Re: Keep whittling!

The problem with your ideas, Steve, is that while they are briefer than my comment, they don't get the joke across.

Perhaps I could have gone with, "I agree. Good-bye." ?
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