One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple – Jack Kerouac

Primping you writing, adding endless finishing touches will do nothing for a clear, easy to read style. And such a clear style is something all writers should aim for.

Overwriting is like quicksand. You’ll only know that you have stepped into it when you find yourself trapped up to your waist. And then, it’s damn difficult to get out.

Newbie writers, being more insecure than their more seasoned fellow writers, are prone to primping their manuscripts. It’s funny,though, that the less experienced a writer is, the more he tries to reach a superlevel of perfection.

The writers I work with will tell you that my first recommendation is to write their draft in one go: no rereading and no rewriting until the article, the story, or the novel is all out and on paper. However, they can’t help doing exactly the opposite: going back to what they’ve written so far, and add an adjective here or –God forbid– an adverb there. They never subtract a word. For a writer, primping always equals adding.

The more they add, the more complex their sentences become, the less clear their writing is. Soon, they’ll have a bunch of bored readers, lost in a jungle of superfluous words. And a bored reader is one that will never recommend your novel, let alone pay for it.

Then, there’re those writers who’re never happy with what they’ve written. There’s always some flaw, something that is not “quite right”. For them, tweaking they manuscripts is almost a religion. “I want this to be perfect”, they say. “My readers deserve only the best”, they claim. But their readers are either getting nothing at all –because the writer will never deliver the story– or what they get is stale, almost dead, after being tampered with so much. What’s the good of so much perfectionism, then?

Polishing and finishing a sculpture
Henry Moore working on one of his small sculptures

Many of you’d have heard that good writing is rewriting. This is one of the foundations of the craft: you write once, and rewrite several times. What your readers will get is that final, polished version of your article, story or novel, stripped of all that’s unnecesary. I use the adjective “polished” on purpose, since I compare the act of rewriting to the work of an artist, carefully polishing his sculpture, brushing away the little imperfections, the too-sharp angles that prevent the marble from shining.

A good writer, as a good sculptor, should never add anything more to what’s already simple and clear. Grandiose, obscure words won’t do any good to your prose. When writing, forget about primping.


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