By Freelance Writer/Author Bob Bly in New York, NY
[The below is an excerpt from Bob’s Write More Sell More, available here.]
“I never use a long work when a short one will do or an involved construction when a simple one will do or literary trickery when plain-speaking will do,” wrote Isaac Asimov in Yours, Isaac Asimov.
Unless you’re naturally poetic, don’t force yourself to be poetic in your writing. Write in your natural voice. When you write in your natural style, you write quickly and well. When you try to force yourself to write in a way that is not natural or comfortable, the work becomes agonizing and you’ll slow to a snail’s pace.
Prolific science fiction authors Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov wrote first drafts that were pretty close to final copy: Heinlein sent out his first drafts unrevised, while Asimov read them once and made revisions affecting maybe 5 percent of the text. Asimov said having a plain and simple style contributed to his being one of the most prolific writers of this century.
Georges Simenon also used a spare, lean style, enabling him to write each of his novels in less than one week. In a single year –1928 — Simenon wrote and published forty-four novels.
Write in a natural, plain style. Your writing should sound like you and reflect your personality. Do not imitate or copy the styles of other writers — even those you admire. Imitation sounds easy but is in fact difficult, unnatural and slow. When you write as if you are talking to the reader one-on-one, you write quickly and productively.
Write simple prose: short words, short sentences. Write to express, not to impress. Care about words and be a careful editor, but don’t agonize over every comma to the nth degree.
Don’t be afraid to write quickly. “Fast writing is good writing,” insists Milt Pierce, a New York City freelance writer who has written dozens of articles, books and direct mail packages. Pierce says the pieces he writes quickly are usually the best; and if he finds himself agonizing, he knows the writing is not his best.
Actually, there is no direct correlation between writing speed and quality. It depends on the assignment and the author. If you’re fortunate enough to be a fast writer, take advantage of your gift. Don’t believe those who tell you that if you did it fast, it can’t be good. It can. I recently read that Robert James Waller wrote The Bridges of Madison County, the best-selling novel of all time, in fourteen weeks, many critics panned the book, but millions of readers loved it. I cheerfully admit to being one of those readers!
At the same time, don’t let editors and clients know how quickly you write. Steve Manning, a Toronto-based freelancer who has written and sold as many as 132 articles in a year, says he never lets editors know how slowly or quickly he wrote a given piece. “It can take me anywhere from two hours to two days to do an article, but I never tell the editor,” says Manning. “Editors assume that if the article was written quickly, it’s inferior. If I let them think it took two to three weeks, they’re more delighted.”
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