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Improve Your Writing 100%

Writers’ Advice Blog 1 Sept 22 by Lorenzo Samuel, author of speculative fiction writings. In the 1 Aug 22 issue Writers’ Advice Blog, we took up ideas for a story, and what the next step is after you think of one. In this Advice Blog we'll discuss improving your writing and provide a tip that will assist you in improving your writing skill 100%.

First, I'll recommend a short book that tersely goes over rules of grammar: "Elements of Style" by Strunk and White. E.B. White was an essayist and story teller and, Strunk was a teacher of his. After Strunk had died, White took over this grammar book, and that's when his name was added as joint author. He contributed a final chapter on style, which is general advice on writing.

Whereas most grammar books delve into the subject in exhaustive detail, Strunk originally wrote his book as a compendium of the most important rules, written tersely and understandably. Strunk wrote the book in the style he recommends that writers use themselves. The only grammar book I have, I follow its recommendations. It contains about 100 pages. Every so often I read it and try emulating its precepts. I recommend that every writer get one.

. Strunk's underlying premise tells us to use only those words necessary to express our meaning. Additional words we should forego just as unneeded steps in the repair of something should. Now, I will give you an exercise to do. It depends on not using any form of the word, "be," i.e., be, being, been, am, is, isn't, are, aren't, was, wasn't, were, weren't.

Here I give you a several lines full of "be"s and its derivatives:

George was walking down the street being as quiet as he could. Sally is following him. "Aren't you going to wait for me or are you being rude on purpose? Stop. I'll be up with you in a second. We were such good friends. How come we aren't any more? Wasn't I nice to you or something? "

Now, I'll rewrite those lines with the forms of "be" removed:

George walked down the street as quietly as he could. Sally follows him. "Wait for me, rude-on-purpose. Stop. I'll catch up in a second. You and I, such good friends once. Gone for good, I guess, and I treated you so nice, didn't I?"

I would completely reform the lines as originally written, but I wanted to demonstrate what removal of forms of "be" could accomplish. Note several things accomplished by the rewrite: more action in the 2nd rendition, truer to life, less telling, more showing, terser with 57 words in the first rendition, and 44 in the second.

Actually, there will come times when the use of "be" forms stands appropriate. Consider this sentence: "Being a good father helps his children." "Father" describes a certain state of existence, making "being" wholly a correct word to use; however, note that the sentence might well read, "A good father helps his children." But the focus has changed slightly

Now it's your turn. Choose an email message you or another has written. A letter or other writing will do as well. You'll want at least 5 lines to have a good go at this. Eliminate all forms of "be" from the message by rewriting. Compare the 2.

Next month’s blog will post around 1 Oct. In it I discuss eliminating cliches.

Note: The book of short speculative fiction "Eve of Valor: 25 Tales" is available on Amazon at click here.

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