Saturday, May 19, 2007

Writing Coming Up Short

I've been given a large portion of the business section to write for Cincinnati Gentlemen magazine. My charge was to write one long feature piece of 800-1000 words then three shorter pieces of 150-300 words (each varied).

In school, I use to hope for short assignments - book reports especially. I remember trying to stretch the word count - this was a very, very, very good book - type of thing. In college I discovered Hemingway and learned how to write. Direct sentences. Simple languarge. How to use rhythm. I got good at it.

The problem with my shorter Cincinnati Gentlemen pieces is that either I've got gassy or the topics I wrote on were just took large. The editors said it was the latter - but maybe they were just being nice (although people usually aren't just being nice to me, so maybe I should trust them.) I rewrote them. Doubled the length and they seemed to like them better.

But I'm thinking I've grown gassy.

I've always judged writers by their word economy. On re-write Gustave Flaubert used to treat extraneous words like offensive weeds in a garden to be torn out. Stephen King said aimed for his second drafts to be a third shorter than his first. Hemingway - my personal savior on word economy - once said (supposedly) the best best short story he ever wrote was six words long. It took the form of a newspaper ad:
For sale: baby shoes; never worn.
That's what I shot for in my writing.

Stay You.
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