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Know Jack #367 Writing on a Budget

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Stephen King

Jack Benny (Google him) was famous for two things: being 39 for decades and being a notorious cheapskate. I tend to be rather manic-depressive when it comes to money. In my writing style, I tend to emulate the late Mr. Benny. I try never to use a $100 word when a ten-cent one will do. Neither do I like using five words where one good one will do the job.

There are as many writing styles as there are voices in the world. Some sound alike but unless there is a conscious effort to emulate someone else, writers who are serious about their craft work to develop a unique voice. I am of the opinion that the voice they finally decide on reflects their core personality.

As long as it is your own voice, there is no right and wrong to finding it or what it sounds like. This is something that, when working as an editor, I try to constantly keep in mind.

Some writers tend to be rather wordy. Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo runs over 444,000 words and is replete with extensive, flowery descriptions of people and places. Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote is 900 pages and over 344,000 words. Both are classics and personal favorites.

On the other hand, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a classic that I have read and reread a dozen times. It might be 30,000 words but that’s stretching it a bit. Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea falls just short of 23,000 words.

I have read each of these books and like them all. A quick read of my books is evidence of the direction in which I lean while writing. I once had an editor who often objected to my having a character walk across the room without first detailing that he got up out of his chair.

It is true that I use obscure references without bothering to explain them. In my defense, many writers do. If you’re a Stephen King fan check out how many books have a character named Dwight Frye. It’s fun when you get it and goes unnoticed if you don’t, so why not have fun?

In the name of economy, I also refuse to write a sentence, add a comma and then explain or add a description of what I just wrote. In today’s market that may or may not be a good thing. However, it is my thing, my voice, and, so far, it has worked.

Talk is cheap, so I try to be thrifty with my words. If a word ends in “ly”, I have to ask myself twice if I need it. The exception may be blog posts in which I ramble.


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