The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 45
Sam picked up Rich at his home and drove to the city council meeting.
“I’m going to teach you how to write,” Sam said. “It’s easy, just don’t make it hard. Good writing is nothing more than good thinking and going over what you read time and time again and improving it. It will never be perfect, but a good writer know when he‘s done all he can do.”
“I was never good about the rules of grammar,” Rich said.
“When you write if you think about the rules of grammar, it’s like running a footrace and thinking about each stride, breath, and so on; you just run. Later you can correct things. If something doesn’t sound right you move it around until it does. What is acceptable grammar can be overlooked for clarity of thought and ease of reading. The writer has to have a good ear. How does it sound; that’s what’s important. Does it make sense?”
“I know how good writing looks and sounds,” Rich said.
“That’s a good start,” Sam said. “You’re going to get a writing course with me that colleges can’t offer. We are going to start out by taking notes independent of each other at the meeting. We’ll go back to the office; you write what you have seen and took notes on and I’ll do the same. And then we’ll compare the two.”
After the meeting they went back to the office. Sam was done in fifteen minutes. It took Rich an hour and fifteen minutes.
Rich brought his finished copy into Sam’s office and sat beside him at his desk.
“Considering how much you wrote and how much I wrote, you did pretty good,” Sam said. “However, you wrote far too much. You have two and a half pages of copy. It looks to me like you took your notes and made them into sentences. Let’s take a look at your opening paragraph and mine.”
Sam went over each sentence of Rich’s copy with him. He commended him for his thoroughness and corrected his verboseness.
“I’m going home, now,” Sam said. “Rewrite this; I want less than one page of copy single space. Put it on my desk, clean the office, and I’ll look over your copy in the morning.”
The next day Rich got to The Beacon early and rapped on the window to Sam’s office. Sam motioned for Rich to come in.
“Much better, I made a couple of changes,” Sam said. “I ran it on the front page, below the fold.” Sam smiled. “And no byline yet. Not till you earn it.”
“Thanks, Sam,” Rich said.
“Friday there is a basketball game; Rockland goes to Gardiner. Nobody wants to go. You can take the paper’s car. Do you know anything about basketball?
“Yeah,” Rich said.
“That’s your next assignment,” Sam said. “Remember, this is a newspaper. Just get the man from one side of the river to the next. Don’t tell us the expression on his face or his mother’s maiden name. Get a few more bylines before you turn into a Grantland Rice.”
Sam reached back and grabbed a small book from a book shelf. “This is just a basic guide on style. It will help you.”