- Print out your ‘finished’ manuscript and ruthlessly disfigure it by marking or circling any words, phrases or sections which in your heart of hearts you know to be less than entirely satisfactory.
- Read your manuscript out loud; the poorly expressed passages will sound leaden.
- Use your Thesaurus to make sure your word choice is entirely effective; never forget that your Thesaurus has a richer vocabulary than you.
- Remove any heavy and unnecessary evidence of your research.
- Do all of the above again.
A baker’s dozen: celebrated 20th century works of fiction in English, chosen because of their closeness to edited perfection (and also because they are personal favourites which I return to again and again):
|E.M. Forster||A Passage to India|
|V.S. Naipaul||A Bend on the River|
|F. Scott Fitzgerald||The Great Gatsby|
|Flannery O’Connor||The Collected Stories of Flannery O’Connor|
|J.M. Coetzee||Waiting for the Barbarians|
|Ivan Turgenev||Fathers and Sons|
|R.K. Narayan||Malgudi Days|
|Flann O’Brien||The Third Policeman|
|William Golding||The Inheritors|
|Margaret Atwood||The Handmaid’s Tale|
|G.K. Chesterton||The Man Who Was Thursday|
|Graham Greene||The Quiet American|