editing / writers tips / writing

Writers Tip #59: Work in Clay, Not Marble

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today’s tip comes from Jacques Barzun, an American historian of ideas and culture, author/editor of more than forty books touching on a broad range of subjects including science and medicine: 

Convince yourself that you are working in clay not marble, on paper not eternal bronze. Let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes. No one will rush out and print it as it stands.

I now have permission to make mistakes–spelling/grammar errors, malapropisms I didn’t intend as humor, run-on sentences and truncated ideas. I don’t care. I’m like Pacman with a pen. After I’ve thrown my words onto paper in an effort to be authentic, unique and honest, I can cut, edit, revise or improve to my heart’s content.

What editing can’t fix is that stilted sound that comes of conscripting a scene, forcing it into a framework it was never intended to fit. All I can do then is throw it out and start over.

This time, I’ll get every emotion, passion, sensory overload down before I start fixing things.

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More tips on writing and editing:

Writer’s Tip #57: You are not Superwoman

5 Ways to Write Like Your Hair’s on Fire

I love Words

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is  editor of a K-8 technology curriculum and technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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4 thoughts on “Writers Tip #59: Work in Clay, Not Marble

  1. PS: Jacqui, do you review all kinds of books or only certain genres? I’m looking for reviewers right now for all of my books, my two new ones in particular.

    If you do, send me an email when you have time and we can chat more:

    mypoeticpath@myway dot com


    LOVE your blog, so glad I found my way here to subscribe. 🙂


    • Most of my reviewing is for Amazon Vine and a select number of PR companies. I wish I could do more. You have some great books on your blog, Geraldine. You have a wonderful handle on your topic.


    • Thanks, Geraldine. This makes me think of Michaelangelo’s explanation of his glorious work: ““In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and in action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.””


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