How to Be a Better Writer: Show Some Restraint

Write Right Talks about Writing RightOne of the tricks to good writing is knowing when to be quiet. Either some details don’t need to be shared at all – the well-known concept of the iceberg – or they need to be released incrementally. The flood gates need not be opened wide; a trickle is sufficient.

Similarly, a conceit or extended metaphor can work beautifully. It can also work horror as when the reader is clobbered with the metaphor again and again or showered with cliches and similes.

In other instances, writers simply try too hard. They want to create memorable imagery. Unfortunately, they do it to their misfortune. No artfulness happens when the metaphor is forced. It only causes readers to want to stab their eyes out with a pen and to feel a shudder ascend the spine. While the readers probably will recall the imagery, they will only remember it because of how awful it was.

Timeliness can affect the writing, too. Using a current event can make a piece more relevant, but using it once the topic no longer trends is dangerous. It’s again forcing a construct that the writing isn’t suited to. Even if the event is trending, that doesn’t mean writers are free to use it as they wish. They need to show some restraint. They need to ask whether their central idea actually ties to the event in question. If it doesn’t – if they have to try too hard to correlate the two – they need to save the idea, not the event. Events come and go. The central idea does not, and it must always, always take precedence.

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Disappointment and Hope

I disappoint myself on occasion. Some people might argue it’s my perfectionism rearing it’s ugly head, and they’re right at times. I sometimes hold myself to an untenable standard. Other times, I have a legitimate reason to be disappointed with myself. Maybe I turn in work that I know isn’t my best. I tried to […]

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