Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – wholeheartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.
~ Arthur Quiller-Couch (from On Style)
Say I’m making tabouli salad, a Mediterranean dish known for its tang and bite. But I have these sweet cherries that would look so festive amid the green parsley, so I toss these into the mix. Tell me, how would that taste? Sweet, you may say. But I’m making tabouli – zesty and pungent!
The ingredients call for scallions, parsley, lemon…tart stuff. So? Why can’t you use maraschino cherries instead of bitter tomatoes? Well, you can, but they don’t belong in the recipe. They’re as out of place as a poem in a medical journal. Besides, no one would eat it.
So what to do with the scrumptious cherries? I know! I’ll save them for the Sunshine Fruit Salad! Sounds like a plan.
A mentee of mine says that cherries on tabouli would be as out of place as Lady Gaga at a Baptist church. Now you fill in the blank.
Sweet cherries on tabouli are as out of place as ______________
I’m pleased to introduce Cyna W., a young protégé. Check out a writing tip below from this 15-year-old aspirant. Don’t forget to encourage her to keep writing, and if you have any advice for her please leave it in
Coco Channel once advised, “Before you leave for the day, take one thing off.” Coco Channel should have been a writer.
Writing a story is something like designing an outfit. Have you ever seen a person walking down the street who is entirely over accessorized? That, my friend, is what fashionistas call a hot mess.
Stories can be over accessorized also. “Her elegantly coifed up-do swirled into disarray as she danced,” is a lovely sentence, but “Her fancy hairdo came undone while she danced” works too, and has fewer verbal necklaces than the first sentence.
Think of sentences as buying paintings at an art show. Yes, they’re all lovely, but buying too many will leave your walls cluttered.
Turn off your” Ohhhh, shiny!!!” reflex and carefully analyze each one, to see if you have a place for that perfect verbal portrait. If you do happen to find the Mona Lisa of all sentences, put it in a place of honor, cutting away any frills that might distract from your masterpiece.
Remember, you don’t want the frame to be worth more than the painting!