Be a Ruthless Editor

From Daily Writing Tips:  By Michael – 4 minute read

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Hard rules are a good thing for writers sometimes. The sonnet is one of the strictest forms of poetry, but some of the world’s greatest poems are sonnets. A haiku form is even stricter, seventeen syllables in three lines. Hard word counts force a writer to overcome his or her natural laziness by editing ruthlessly. Because writers have no choice but to keep on ruthlessly editing and shortening until the piece is short enough, their job becomes easier, paradoxically. With fewer choices, decision-making becomes faster. There is only room to make one main point, and once you decide what it is, there’s no need to struggle to fit any others in.

Tighten Your Writing

Ruthless editing becomes a necessary skill because some short writing opportunities have very hard word count limits. For example, each of my monthly allotment of academic journal abstracts could never exceed 150 words, After I completed them, they were loaded into a searchable database – your local library may have a subscription to it. The database included fields for the author, title and publication, each with limited lengths, but the abstract field in the database could only hold 150 words. So I had to keep editing and reediting until my abstract was less than 150 words. It was a hard rule that could not be broken.

Builders talk about load-bearing walls. When you’re remodeling your house, if you want to open up the floor plan or provide more space, maybe you decide to remove a wall. That’s fine, unless the wall is a load-bearing wall. If you remove a load-bearing wall, part of the building will fall down. As you remove sentences or words, parts of the sentence or paragraph that used to be cosmetic become load-bearing. This is a good thing: it makes you pay more attention to what you’re writing. It requires your writing to be more efficient. And that makes your writing easier to read, because there is less fluff to read through, and it makes your writing more powerful.

Ruthless editing can lead to honest evaluation. Summarizing your work in a shorter form, as in a pitch letter or synopsis, provides you a reality check on what you wrote. If you can’t briefly present your work without sounding ridiculous, maybe (I gently suggest) maybe it is ridiculous.

Help the Reader

Besides the invigorating, astringent benefits to the writer learning to edit ruthlessly, brief writing benefits the reader too. The human mind can only hold so many thoughts and words at once, just as a computer screen or the page of a book can only hold so many words. So for example, academic researchers need abstracts to be brief so that several can be compared on a single page or computer screen. Short summaries let readers get a taste of the writer’s ideas or many writers ideas in a small space and time.

By limiting the number of ideas in the summary, the writer also limits the number of ideas that need to fit into the reader’s head at one time. With fewer ideas to focus on, the reader has more room to think about them. With fewer words to move around in your head, words can be moved around more easily, compared, pondered and felt. Which is more effective: a single powerful, precise word or a string of twenty words that mean exactly the same thing and add nothing more?

Here are some tips for editing ruthlessly:

Cut Riskily

Set a goal for yourself, if your editor hasn’t already, to cut 10% from your draft. But why stop there? Choose a paragraph and cut out one-fourth. Or take a risk, let the adrenaline flow – and cut it down one-half. You’ll be surprised at how often the passage still works. (Often it won’t – that’s why it’s called a risk.) If it doesn’t work, simply restore the cut passage from your recently saved draft.

Some reasons why such ruthless cutting often works:

  • You may find you had more fluff than you thought. The passage still works because the cut part never did.
  • You may find that the cut part wasn’t as necessary as you thought. Only when it’s gone do you realize you can live without it. It was pulling some weight, but not so much. If you want, take the best words from it, use them elsewhere, and move on.
  • You may find that your reader doesn’t need the cut part to figure out what’s happening. When a character leaves the room, your reader will assume the character went through a door without being explicitly told.

Make Less More

Even if I increase it to 1,000 or 100,000 words, I still can’t improve on the classic six-word-novel:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn

No one is saying that War and Piece would be improved if it were edited down from 587,287 words to 1,000 words. If you want to deal with five families and the Napoleonic War, you will need a lot of words. But a key to ruthless editing – and having the heart to do it in the first place – is being able to see when you have gained more than you’ve lost by cutting words.

Maximize Your Space

If you have a limited number of words to work with, make each word carry its weight. For example:

The river flowed through the river bed, making a sound like thunder.

We can cut some of those words without losing any meaning. Rivers always flow, usually through river beds, and thunder is always a sound. Changing it to “The river thundered” or “The thundering river” says as much in three words as the original sentence did in eleven – really, it says more. Now I have to find a new, sleek sentence to put them into. It will take a little work to make the most of them, just as it takes a little work to make the most of the garlic chives I just harvested from my garden. But should I give up a good thing because it takes work?


10 Knife-Buying Tips

10 Knife-Buying Tips

10 Knife-Buying Tips

No tools define a cook more than his or her knives. Why do you think we carry them around in rolls instead of hauling backpacks full of pots and pans? Exactly.

Here are some random tips when shopping for kitchen knives:

1. You don’t need many. Honest. If you’re just starting out look for a chef’s knife in the 8-10″ range, a large serrated bread knife and a utility blade blade in the 4-6″ range. What? No paring knife? Actually, I hate paring knives. I don’t even own one any more. When you’re ready to move on, contemplate a semi-flexible boning knife for butchery duties and a long slicer for thinly dispatching roasts and the like. Also, I’d get a decent pair of kitchen shears, the kind that come apart into two pieces. I never cut with a knife what I can cut with scissors. After all, I’ve been using those things since kindergarten.

2. By and large I think the Japanese manufacture the best cutlery in the world, much better than the big European brands that came to dominate the American market in the 90s. Superior steel aside, many find that Japanese shapes such as those of the santoku, with it’s dropped point, and the cleaver-like nakiri, are handier in the modern kitchen.

3. That said, when you’re ready to invest in R.G.S. (really good s***) I’d look to America. For my money, Cut Brooklyn and Murray Carter Cutlery (made in New York and Oregon respectively) are as good as any knives in the world. Both can be sought out on the interwebs. Cheap … no. Worth it? Totally.

4. Steer clear of sets … period. No exceptions. Ever.

5. When it comes to storage, I have two words: magnetic strips.

6. Cutting is a system involving your hand, a knife, some food and a cutting board. I cannot over-empasize the importance of the omega component. I’ve seen people buy $300 blades and then run them on a cheap board and curse the knife. Your board needs to be heavy and it needs to be rock maple. Plastic boards are fine for butchery, but when it comes to serious slicing and dicing (not to mention chopping and mincing) you want wood. Bamboo? I’m not a fan. Give me a maple board from the John Boos company every time. And no, they don’t pay me to say that.

7. Want to know how to turn a quality knife into a box cutter? Cut a box. It’s just that simple.

8. Want to know another way to turn a quality knife into a box cutter? Put it in the dishwasher. Once is all it takes.

9. If you like your knives sharp, have those edges maintained regularly by a professional knife sharpener once or twice a year. Do not use a honing steel. You’ll put your eye out!

10. Never, ever, ever run with knives.

Pictured above: A few of my favorite things including two Carter knives, two Cut Brooklyn knives and one very old Sabatier knife. All are made of carbon steel which can be sharpened to near light saber sharpness. They tend to discolor, however, and require more sharpening. The bottom is a good example of a nakiri, and the second from the top is a utility knife with a santoku-style tip.

Sunday Music – Green Onions

PA Pundits - International

Today’s music video is Green Onions and the song is performed here by the American band Booker T. And The M.G.’s

Link to Video at You Tube

This video was posted to You Tube by rocco vl

The history behind this song is so interesting that it’s difficult to know where to start.

When I started doing these Music Posts almost nine years ago now, I posted solely Instrumentals for the first 15 Months or so, and I was certain this song would have been one of them, as it was always a favourite song of mine, but lo and behold, when I went back and looked, I had not posted it at all, which I found a little strange, one of my favourite Instrumentals, and somehow, I missed it.

This clip I have posted today is different from the original, as it is around a minute and a half…

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The Problem With Islam

Skating Under The Ice

I’ll say something that is not politically correct in the slightest, something that a number of people may disagree with, and then I’ll take a bit of time to explain why I think it is true. Let me invite you to set aside all of your current conceptions about Islam for a few moments—you can easily take your previous ideas up again afterwards if I’m wrong. If you are willing to give my claims and concepts a fair trial and to read to the very end, important footnotes and all, you may agree with me when I say that the problem with Islam is not Muslim “extremists”, nor is it “radical” Muslims. In fact, the problem with Islam is not Muslims of any kind. It is far deeper than that.

The problem is that Islam is not just a religion. Islam is also a terrorist ideology.

Let me be clear from the outset that none of…

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The Forever Wars

Skating Under The Ice

In furtherance of the discussion begun in my previous post, The Problem With Islam, I wanted to take a look at the two Islamic forever wars. If you haven’t read that post please do so, as it forms a necessary prelude to these war stories.

While many people are aware that Mohammed was the Prophet of Allah and the founder of Islam, fewer people know that he has another curious claim to fame.

He was pivotal in starting the two longest-running wars in history, wars that began in the 7th Century and have continued right up until today. One is the forever war of Islam against Jews, Christians, “pagans”, and the world in general; and the other is the forever war of the Sunnis and Shiites. The war against Jews and Christians started during Mohammed’s lifetime. The Sunni-Shiite war started after he died, but before he was buried … and under Islamic law, burial has to…

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It’s Not About Me

Watts Up With That?

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

One response to Christopher Booker graciously mentioning my work in the Telegraph is the predictable increase in the usual personal attacks on me, as opposed to attacking my ideas and claims. People are rehashing Tim Lambert calling me a liar because he disagreed with my methods, as though that meant something about me rather than simply revealing something about Tim. They point out that I am an amateur scientist (as though that were other than a badge of honor). I’m told that I’m out of my depth. I am constantly assured that I am not qualified to offer a scientific opinion on climate, because of my lack of academic qualifications (BA in Psychology), and because of the shortness of my scientific publications list. The supply of reasons given to try to convince people to ignore my work is seemingly endless. To hear people tell it…

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Black History On The Ranch

Skating Under The Ice

I grew up basically in the 19th century, on a 280 acre (110 hectare) cattle ranch surrounded by miles of virgin forest full of wildlife, bear, mountain lions. No phone. No electricity, we made our own. It was called the “Rough Diamond Ranch”. We had our own cattle brand. And after my dad wasn’t around, on the ranch were my grandmother and grandfather, my mom, my aunt, my three brothers, and my three cousins. Another place, another time.

The nearest town was five miles of bad dirt road downhill. It consisted of a single weathered combination store/bar/post office/gas station. The grade school was in town. It served all the children from the other ranches for miles around. It was tiny, even though it was for first through eighth grade and served a large area. One year there was a total of twenty-one kids in the school, and seven of them were my family from the ranch.

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Here’s How America’s First Outsider President Set A Precedent For Inaugurations

PA Pundits - International

stepman_jarret_tds-200x200By Jarrett Stepman ~

The Washington establishment was stunned.

A political outsider with few connections in the nation’s capital, but wide national celebrity among the American people, was going to be the next president of the United States.

Andrew Jackson's inauguration became famous for the wild crowd it attracted. It set a precedent for how Americans welcomed their new leaders. (Photo: Picture History/Newscom)Andrew Jackson’s inauguration became famous for the wild crowd it attracted. It set a precedent for how Americans welcomed their new leaders. (Photo: Picture History/Newscom)

Washington, D.C., residents were unprepared for the wild scene that was about to unfold when the new president’s advocates—and a few detractors—poured into the city. Some compared this enormous mass of people to an invading barbarian horde pillaging Rome.

This scene may sound familiar in 2017, but it describes Andrew Jackson’s inaugural celebration in 1829. At the time, such large-scale fanfare at an inauguration was unprecedented.

Trump Inauguration Protesters Dishonor Long-Held Principle

Yet despite the circus atmosphere that Jackson’s inaugural became famous for, he delivered a powerful…

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