July 30, 2012

"Just one piece of general advice from a writer has been very useful to me. It was from Colette."

Said Georges Simenon:
... I remember I gave her two short stories and she returned them and I tried again and tried again. Finally she said, “Look, it is too literary, always too literary.” So I followed her advice. It’s what I do when I write, the main job when I rewrite.

What do you mean by “too literary”? What do you cut out, certain kinds of words?

Adjectives, adverbs, and every word which is there just to make an effect. Every sentence which is there just for the sentence. You know, you have a beautiful sentence—cut it. Every time I find such a thing in one of my novels it is to be cut.

Is that the nature of most of your revision?

Almost all of it.
Ha ha. Here. Maybe this will help.


leslyn said...

Simenon seems to have done pretty well without anyone else's help but Colette's.

Come to think of it, she did pretty well too.

dbp said...

Cool site. I put in the words from my latest blog post and got:

Your text: 2420 characters, 430 words
Bullshit Index :0.19
Your text shows only a few indications of 'bullshit'-English.

ndspinelli said...

I love the blablameter, thanks. My bride is a writer and I'll share this w/ her.

edutcher said...

The Gospel According to Frederic Remington, but for words.

lemondog said...

Ran long texts of Emerson which showed low BS Index of .09

dbp said...

Oddly, a post I considered entirely fluff--it was titled, "Misc. Bleatish thoughts since I haven't posted in a while..." got:

Your text: 2221 characters, 410 words
Bullshit Index :0.04
Your text shows no or marginal indications of 'bullshit'-English.

So, I guess it is not entirely intuitive.

lemondog said...

W. Faulkner .04

ricpic said...

In a way I'm surprised by Colette's advice, which is very masculine: cut this, cut that, be Hemingway. There is something to be said for the other approach, overladen vines of words twisting, turning, laboring to describe the overabundance of details that make the world. I can still remember being overwhelmed by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' The Yearling, in which she was perfectly willing to stop the flow of the story with long loving descriptions of Florida flora and fauna, that I suppose would have been edited out by a no nonsense Colette of an editor but thank goodness weren't, the result being a sense of overflowing fullness, cornucopia-like, that would have been lost in a leaner meaner Yearling.

Calypso Facto said...

Love the blabla too.

The core (198 words) of Mr. Obama's "you didn't build that" speech (last reference today, promise) rates:

Bullshit Index :0.34
Your text shows indications of 'bullshit'-English. It's still ok for PR or advertising purposes, but more critical audiences may be skeptical.


chickelit said...

I plugged in a diary entry I wrote over 30 years ago and recently blogged:

Your text: 2692 characters, 497 words
Bullshit Index :0.07
Your text shows no or marginal indications of 'bullshit'-English.

That's not bad for a 19-year old.

Carol said...

"overladen vines of words twisting, turning, laboring to describe the overabundance of details"

I just slogged through Melville's Typee, mainly for the stuff about tattoos among the natives. Verbosity was the style midcentury, maybe because the novels were serialized, but jeez it's hard going.

OTOH I didn't mind it with the older translations of Dostoevsky, because the tone was funny and chatty anyway.

But I loathe modern, clever writerly type writing. The writing should be transparent, so you see straight through to the story.

tim maguire said...

.11, "only a few indications of "bullshit" English.

I've long been of the opinion that the word processor is the worst thing to happen to the novel since Horatio Alger.

yashu said...

I plead guilty to the charge of blabla. (I didn't test myself, but I don't need to test myself to know I'm sometimes prone to swollen prose.)

But I'd contend that sometimes (not in my writing) blabla-- good blabla-- has its value.

Minimalism is great, but it's not the only valid style-- in writing or architecture or music or anything else. Baroque or rococo may not be to your taste, but some instances of it do provide aesthetic pleasure. And cognitive/ intellectual pleasure, too.

I would agree that if you're going to pack on pounds you better have good bone structure, sinew, muscle. You can be corpulent and not flabby. If you're going to write a long intricate labyrinthine sentence, with fold upon fold and flourish upon flourish, as the author you better be able to diagram that sentence.

(Unless you're writing stream of consciousness...)

deborah said...

Your text: 664 characters, 133 words

Bullshit Index :0

Your text shows no or marginal indications of 'bullshit'-English.

Lem said...

In your non-commercial novels you feel no need to make concessions of any sort?

I never do that, never, never, never.

Simenon responds in a childish form.

Lem said...

complete communication, is completely impossible between two of those people..

I've experienced that.

wyo sis said...

I plugged in my latest longish comment and got 0.08. Not bad.

Pastafarian said...

Hmm...what's the BlaBlaMeter's methodology? I copied and pasted something I'd written for work, and:

Your text: 653 characters, 117 words
Bullshit Index :0.28
Your text shows some indications of 'bullshit'-English, but is still within an acceptable range.

And they're right, I'm bullshitting, and I'm a lousy writer. But I'd like to know what they're measuring here.

FleetUSA said...


Just listen or read a Maigret story and you will understand how well he practiced the art.

Pastafarian said...

I typed in a few very simple short sentences with common words; I'm guessing that it penalizes you for long sentences, particularly with punctuation.

A semicolon probably bumps your bullshit index up by 0.05 all by itself.

I'm calling bullshit on the bullshit meter. Hemingway would have scored a bullshit index of something like 0.02, but he was one of the biggest bullshitters of all time.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Simenon is a master. Anyone who wants to learn to write--or to read--should read him. If you have read Simenon, it's difficult to take people like Michael Chabon or Andres Neuman seriously. It's true that Simenon's advice is extreme and there are many other styles available. But the underlying advice is to be genuine. There are numerous ways in which Simeon is real literature and most contemporary fiction is, as I. B. Singer called it, "counterfeit literature." This difference is not currently taught.

The Maigret mysteries are fun, but the non-mysteries, the psychological novels, are often profound, always sociologically interesting, and sometimes devastating. Several of the best have recently been reprinted by New York Review Classics.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read Simenon, but I believe he is at the far-end of the style spectrum from my favorite, Nabokov. Art can come from any style in the hands of a master, though.

Will Richardson said...

I have always liked Samuel Clemens Rules of Writing.

traditionalguy said...

I have known people who never studied literature, they just produce it.

pm317 said...

Maigret! Love Bruno Cramer.

pm317 said...

Who the hell is this Simenon?

Carnifex said...


They didn't produce that. Somebody else made that happen.

(The meme strikes again!)

Once a humble blogger named Carnifex, the Meme has sworn to defeat Obamanism everywhere he finds it by using his own words against him. Beware, the Meme!

Not suggesting you're an O'bot. Know that you aren't. Just not going to let this meme die till Mitt's in Da' House!

Carnifex said...

Aurora Co.

"The police acted stupidly"

The Meme!

"There were “paralegals” there to help"

The Meme!

"I can only imagine what these parents are going through,and when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local, to figure out how this tragedy happened. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like..."

The Meme!

rcocean said...

Put in some Abe Lincoln: .07 to .15 - Very low BS

OTOH, William F. Buckley gets a .33!

Chip Ahoy said...

I never do that, never, never, never.


That's three nevers where one will do. Edit two for a savings of two nevers and two commas.


Chip Ahoy said...

No wait, it's worse. Four nevers where one will do. Tsk.

Chip Ahoy said...

Ever since that little Farnsworth book on rhetoric I've been big on repetition.


See? Did it again.

Carnifex said...


"Someone else made that happen."

The Meme

Eric said...

A perfect illustration of Antoine de St. Exupery's maxim “Perfection is reached not when there's nothing left to add, but when there's nothing left to remove.”

Though for most of us it's less about perfection and more about "making my work a tiny bit better".

bagoh20 said...

Something is wrong with that thing. I'm an uneducated, seriously bad writer, of a distinctly rube-ish and hillbilly nature, who would have a hard time convincing people that English is his first language. Despite that, I can't get any of my crap to score worse than about 0.16. I know it's bad, and I'm either too stupid or lazy to fix it, yet they say I'm fine. Bullshit! I don't want your damned participation trophy. How can it be OK if I wrote it, and even I can't understand it?

prairie wind said...

Bullshit! I don't want your damned participation trophy.

Ah, this is lovely. My day just improved.