Just Communicate

Leo Tolstoy: He had something to say.

A client sent me a first chapter to a book. I don’t want to say it was awful, but it just wasn’t working on any level. After receiving my critique, the client sent me a long message of explanation. The message was clear, funny, insightful and fun to read. It had me hanging on every word. How do you explain that? Actually, I think embedded in the explanation is the secret principle for all good writing. The root problem with the chapter was that the writer had never figured out what the story was. In the absence of a clear idea, she just tried to WWrite around it. That’s trying to be a writer with two cap Ws, big fancy words, flashy sentence structure, metaphors out the wazoo, with the net result something that is overly cute, trying too hard, and still, since the root problem was not knowing what the story was, meaningless. But when she was trying to explain her difficulty to me, she knew exactly what she was experiencing, which allowed her to do nothing with her writing except attempt to communicate that to me in the best possible way. Since she was talented, the result was everything I describe above. So that’s something to remember: the key to good writing is, first and foremost, actually having something significant and interesting to communicate. Once you have that, forget about everything else but communicating that thing in the most effective way possible. Easy peasy.

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