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Monday, 30 September 2013

Killing Words

Stephen King had once written in his memoir, On Writing, that in order to write your best you must, "Kill your darlings." In other words, never be afraid to edit, rewrite, and delete--keep it somewhere so that you can always go back and see it again, but certainly delete.

If ever you wanted a lesson on learning to do so, find an editor. These past few weeks have been some of the most informative, helpful, and, in some cases, frustrating; there is no denying that, in order to be a writer, to take a chance on something so foolhardy, you need to have the utmost confidence in yourself, your personal voice, and--most of all--your word.

Sometimes that confidence in your work means that you can't quite find the will to admit when something is weird, contrary, or just downright wrong. Or you're just so set in your vision that you cannot see beyond it.

Confession: I don't know if you can tell this about me but I really like the semi-colon as a form of regular punctuation. I also enjoy, large, clause loaded, and compounded up the wazoo sentences, as I find them most appealing and enjoyable to both read and write. It's like Tony Hawk doing a 900 or Lance Armstrong doing...never mind. We'll ignore him.

For a magazine, however, these tend to be less than admirable traits for writers. After all, when we're being honest with ourselves, semi-colons and twelve line sentences are really just for people who want you to know that they went to college, or for Salman Rushdie. They don't really lend themselves to reading.

As a result, I had the supreme pleasure of having to wonderful editors from aid me in revisions that tightened my prose into a neat and streamlined syntax, perfect for a burgeoning journalist.

Everyone has someone that they like so much that they wish to emulate. I have several. Truman Capote. John Irving. John Steinbeck.

Now that I'm really getting my feet wet in journalism, I think it might be time to find others out there with different prose, cleaner and more direct prose, in which I might find a new way of using the tools in my tool box. After all, learning to hold back is just as important as when you let everything fly: like writing; like music; like any craft.

Just remember, no matter how many articles you write and how successful you become, never be afraid to kill your darlings.