"Tableau - an erasure poem from page 151 of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest
Okay, long answer here. A writer friend, Doug Coupland, recently told me about medical studies that suggest the final developmental changes in the human brain occur around the age of 31. When asked, most people — for the rest of their lives, regardless of their actual age — will say they feel 31 years old. I’d written for several years, but at 31 I wrote ‘Fight Club’ and that age seemed to allow me the peace to sit and concentrate. A peace I didn’t have in my 20’s. My advice is to live a rich, interesting life, practice writing if you want, but don’t beat yourself to produce your best work until after the age of 31. Okay? Okay.
I look askance at big blocks of prose. Those are places where attention wanders and the reader’s excitement begins to cool. I don’t care how good a sentence might be… we’ve got to keep moving. Hemingway said kill your darlings, but I try not to have darlings at all, and kill at will.
This is probably not terribly helpful. But I guess try and find one sentence in every paragraph that says the thing the reader needs to know to get to the next paragraph. Then see about deleting everything else. Maybe you can’t delete everything else. But you’d be shocked at how much can go.
There were a lot of sentences in Max Berry’s LEXICON that gave me an electric shock of pleasure. One was just: “A thin dog scratched in the dirt.” That was enough to show me a whole dusty, sandy, barren landscape of trailers, cars on cinder blocks, empty sidewalks, loneliness. One little sentence that carried a whole widescreen picture.
Try and find that thin dog, and skip everything else.