Several Short Sentences About Writing

This is the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of writing.

Author Verlyn Klinkenborg’s book takes on a poetic form, breaking paragraphs into sentences to make you (reader and potential author) understand how important each and every one is. The book makes it clear that the rules you know about writing are bad rules:

Consider the bad habit of typing, preliminarily, two or three words—
A natural start to the sentence, you think—
And then waiting for the rest of the sentence to reveal itself.
But after two or three words the sentence is already foredoomed,
Its structure predetermined.
Two or three words, and you’ve already reduced the remaining choices
To a small, depressing handful.
It’s shocking to realize how quickly you become wedded to those two or three words,
How hard it is to abandon them for an alternative.

What do you do once you’ve wrangled the art of the good sentence? Well:

So revise toward brevity—remove words instead of adding them.
Toward directness—language that isn’t evasive or periphrastic. Toward simplicity—in construction and word choice.
Toward clarity—a constant lookout for ambiguity.
Toward rhythm—where it’s lacking.
Toward literalness—as an antidote to obscurity.
Toward implication—the silent utterance of your sentences.
Toward variation—always.
Toward silence—leave some. Toward the name of the world—yours to discover.
Toward presence—the quiet authority of your prose.
And when things are really working,
That’s when it’s time to break what already works,
And keep breaking it
Until you find what’s next.

Reminds me of: ‘The War of Art‘ by Steven Pressfield, the ‘Smooth Soup’ episode of Wonderful (where I heard about this book)