Due to vacations and the fall semester starting and the planets aligning – or not aligning as the case may be – I had to work today on a Sunday, something I haven’t had to do in years. I am a bit discombobulated, the schedule of my usual goings on all tossed overboard. On the plus side, I will get to have Friday off, something I never get to do unless it is a holiday or I take a vacation day which means since September 3rd is a holiday I will have a 4-day weekend next weekend to compensate for the one-day weekend I had this weekend. And I am rambling on merrily – see what happens when I get thrown off my usual?
At any rate, I did manage some reading this weekend on Saturday but none today. And since I am not at home at the moment, typing this at a very quiet library circulation desk (shh, don’t tell anyone!), I cannot post about Lolita which I finished last week. It will have to wait. No, today all I can do is ramble and now point you to a marvelous letter written by C.S. Lewis to a young fan in Florida, USA in 1956. What a generous and kind man he is in his letter. The girl must have sent him something she wrote and asked for writing advice. Here is his general advice:
1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.
3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”
4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”
5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite
Good advice for any writer of any age. Pop over to Letters of Note to read the entire letter.
And now I shall cease my rambling and get back to doing actual library work. As you were!