In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Out of Reach.”

She would do anything to go back and change that night. She took everything from him, his family, his safety, the life he knew, all in exchange for a moment’s ‘freedom’, a ‘freedom’ no better than his imprisonment. At least in chains, he had been safe. Tucked away in that hidden corner, nobody had been able to hurt him. Until she came along.

As soon as escape beckoned to her, she had taken it. She had left him to face the dangers. Left him behind. He was out there alone. No one could help him. He was out of reach.

  1. Don’t use adverbs unnecessarily
  2. Avoid clichés like the plague.
  3. Try not to beat around the bush by using a shed-load of really long sentences because they just clog up your writing, like a backed up drain, and make your point extremely difficult for your readers to either find, work out or even get to since the chances of them actually hacking their way through your ridiculously verbose and woolly one hundred and seventeen word sentence are unbelievably slim and they are far more likely to have simply given up or abandoned ship when they first saw how it took up four or five lines of the page when they initially opened it in their browser, so just cut to the chase — in other words, be succinct.

Tip: Writer’s Block

“Suggestions? Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.”
(Neil Gaiman)

Writer’s block will strike us all at some point. It’s annoying and frustrating. Sometimes, it feels like you’ll never get over it. Sometimes, you can’t. But that’s a last resort. Here’s my advice for overcoming that demon before you exorcise it with fire. Continue reading

Tip: Keep it Simple

“The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what–these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence. And they usually occur in proportion to education and rank.”
(William Zinsser, On Writing Well. Collins, 2006)

It’s called pompo-verbosity–using an overly pompous word where a simple one will do. If you want an example, the word pompo-verbosity is a good starting point. This is a trap I used to fall into a lot when writing as a teenager. I loved long words! I wanted to use them everywhere–spread the love of long words around. Show off. Ah.

That is the problem with using long words. You’re showing off. No one likes a show off. It’s fine to use the occasional long word if no other word will do–but only if no other words fill the same gap. There’s no point in using words no one else will understand because no one will understand them. You’re telling a story or you’re trying to get a point across. Don’t over-complicate it.

The same goes with sentences. Don’t be overly-poetic where you don’t need to be. Sure, poetry sounds lovely when read aloud, but most people read in their heads. It doesn’t have the same effect. Instead, use imagery to paint the picture in a concrete way. I read a piece recently that described running through long, yellow grass as “running on the back of a lion”. It worked. I can see that. If you describe it as “running through the gold of a sunset as the planet turns and the river of time flows forth”… well… what on earth does that mean? I can’t see that! Lovely words, but no meaning.