Notes on Writing

Matt Taibbi:

Rule #1: When you think you’re finished, go back and kill 20% of your copy.

Soviet writer Isaac Babel, a fan of what the Dude called “the whole brevity thing,” said a key was using “strong fingers” and “whipcord nerves” to remove parts “you happen to like most, but are needed least.” Babel added writing was “like self-inficted torture” and wondered why he didn’t follow his father into the farm machinery business. You’ll see that sentiment a lot. Most people who actually like writing, overwrite. When you think you’re finished, check the word count. If it’s 1800, target 360 for termination. Your real length is probably 1200, but a 20% kill is a start. Nobody has a 100% smart rate, least of all you. Learn to enjoy it. If loved ones walk in the room during this process, they should see a schizoid gleam in your eye that makes them nervous.