Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Picky Picky

Being a writer makes me a picky reader.

It's kind of like when I see a hand-knit sweater. As a knitter, I can't just look at it and say, "Cute sweater." I have to feel it, inspect the seams, see how they did the ribbing, look for skipped stitches, and criticize the dangling yarns on the inside.

Recently I was assigned a talk based on a couple of chapters of Elizabeth George's book, A Woman's High Calling.

Mrs. George has a lot of good things to say, but I was driven to distraction by how many words she uses to say it. Maybe this comes from writing a 1000-word column for seven years, but it irritates me like everything when people use 20 words and five would have done the job.

For instance:
As I considered the ramifications of the scriptures above and what they are teaching us about temperance and the importance of personal discipline and self-control, I also went to my English dictionary for a little help. Putting all things, all meanings, and all definitions together, here's a composite of what temperance and self-control means. . .

Where was her editor? Actually, I imagine she had the sort of editor that says, "Listen,this has to be at least 50 more pages to fit the category we want. Couldn't you expand this a bit more?"

Happily, I also recently read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Now there is a book. It grabs you by the collar and pulls you in. It makes tight and effective writing look offhand and easy.

Hasty disclaimer: Don't worry, I don't read blogs, comments, emails, or letters with the same eagle eye. Only books and magazine articles.

Quote of the Day:
"Mom, how would you like to be a veterinarian? No hamburger! No chicken! No bacon!"
(she meant vegetarian of course)


  1. I always wondered why Tolkien's editor let him waffle so endlessly. Now I know. :)

  2. I've been wanting to read Blue Like Jazz for quite some time. Just finished reading Philip Yancey's book PRAYER Does It Make Any Difference. It came at a good time for me. ~IH

  3. Blue Like Jazz. There's a book. Dorcas, you should check out his other books as well. After reading his books you feel like you could go out and have a..."root beer" with him and he'd be as nice and cool as he comes across in his books. I like Donald Miller.

  4. Thats exactly how I would class the Mitford series.

  5. I find that problem with a lot of books published by the "Christian" publishing houses. They need sharper editing.

  6. "WHEW" (wipes seat from forehead) the rest of us are off the hook!
    Ha Ha

  7. I think I just proved my point since I can't seem to spell the word "sweat" properly!!!

  8. @julana: but that might put them out of business as there would likely be nothing left to print...

  9. My senior seminar class in college was based on reviewing some of the new releases of that year from a variety of genres. We had one book a week to read pages) and write a two page response in one of 12 different styles of literary criticism. It made a HUGE difference in the quality of my writing when I wasn't trying to come up with ten sentences to convey one concept, but rather two or three sentences to summarize and respond to multiple concepts.

    One of the primary reasons I can't stand legalese: the verbosity!!

  10. What bothers me more is when there is a mistake in the book... Did anyone bother to read the thing before they published it?