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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Keep It Short!

Writers tend to proudly show how hard they worked on a manuscript. They think the more pages they fill, the higher they rank. All wrong. A good writer never stops shortening his stories. It's the best way to get them read. Samuel Goldwyn never even touched a script that had more than 20 pages. And even then he used to say: I read part of it all the way through.


  1. Here on this blog one may think that writing is a job to fill blank pages of books or newspapers only. But don´t forget that writing is the main occupation in business world too. What do you think is the reason for so many managers with university titles in economics? It is not the achieved knowledge in business but the fact that on university students must learn writing. In the outcome it is without any importance what the student has been studied. Never mind if it is geology or transcendental superstition. This is what only british companies have understood.

  2. It is not "all wrong", it is only a l l wrong, if you write to be heard (in a musical etc.) or to be seen (in a film or play). It is also wrong, usually, if you write a doctoral thesis (although the after 68 professors in Italy for over 30 years were claiming exactly this in the belief that the result could only be profoundness and never flatness). A friend of mine who presented a succinct, rich thesis needed the assistance of an attorney because his thesis was rejected as meager, while he had only applied what Macchiavelli says in the preface of "The Prince" dedicated to Lorenzo de' Medici: "only the originality and the importance of the subject should make it acceptable".

    In our time a particular condition adds on the timeless advice of Macchiavelli. 1. We live in an epoche of unprecedent acceleration. 2. If you want to make a living exclusivly of your writing, you have to create an i m m e d i a t l y sellable product. Slow Food and slow reading yet are opponent "movements" (i.e. brake actions) of deceleration, but it isn't affordable for everyone. The succinct creativity of a commercial spot is like a return to hieroglyphics and icons. The editor Reader's Digest asserts even that some writers have praised his reductions of their novels as "better than the original" written by them. This after all is a good working field for talented critics. Finally we can read reduced versions of Tolstoj, Dostojewski, Saul Bellow, Manzoni, Gottfried Keller, Goethe, Umberto Eco and Dante Alighieri and be sure that the essential will never need many words, never will be cut out by a R'sD censor and never stays diffused in the expanded universe of a balanced whole. An experienced, perceptive and empathically talented person like Samuel Goldwyn doesn't need to read more than "part of it", that's another theme yet.

    It is very rare that a film is as good as the book from which the film plot was taken. And I know only one single example of a film which is even better than the book (which had been written at the end of the 18th century).

    A writer mustn't think that his work has to be succinct and dense like "The death in Venice" (and that Mann's Trilogy on Joseph is shit), he has to decide whether to become a writer or a producer of litterature pills. Always remembering that St. Exupery told us that perfection comes not when nothing can be added, but when nothing can be cut off, that St. Martin cut his coat in two and that Mercury was the god of traders and thieves.