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Arts Vanity Issue: A (Mostly Plagiarized) Guide to Writing in Three Easy Steps

Elizabeth C. Keto
As my younger brother would tell you, one of my favorite pastimes is giving sage advice when the market for said advice is weak or completely nonexistent. One of my other favorite pastimes is collecting quotes, a pursuit which I approach with the kind of passionate enthusiasm that normal people might devote to the accumulation of disposable income. So, combining life advice from someone totally unqualified to give it with quotes from various better-qualified someones, I’ve compiled a guide to writing in three easy steps.

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.” —Arthur Quiller-Couch

I personally believe this with all my heart. In fact, in the interest of efficiency, I usually take this one step further and avoid perpetrating any good writing to begin with. As a word of warning, I have found that professors, teaching fellows, and Crimson editors tend to be kill-your-darlings skeptics when I use this as a rationale for the total lack of “exceptionally fine writing” in the assignments I turn in. Philistines.

“An artist must be a reactionary. He has to stand out against the tenor of the age and not go flopping along; he must offer some little opposition.” —Evelyn Waugh

Now is your chance to indulge in all the irrelevant, outmoded, practically unreadable words you always wanted to use in your writing! Rescue them from their linguistic retirement home, where “eventide” is swapping tales of the good old days with “betwixt,” and “blithering” is looking for his false teeth. Why would you say “bearded” when you could say “barbigerous”? Or “the annoying habit of giving unwanted advice” when you could say “ultracrepidarianism”? Because the only person you’ve ever heard say these words is your great-aunt who also uses phrases like “doing a Google”? Bah. Evelyn Waugh said you could.

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“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ―W. Somerset Maugham

This is an excellent example of the kind of infuriating thing that you can say when you are a Famous Writer. Unfortunately, it provides little aid in your evolution from the bright-eyed aspirant whose dreams of learning from one of her literary heroes were just crushed to the literary hero who gets to crush these dreams. But it gives you something to look forward to during the long nights of typing in the kind of draughty garret or windowless basement you should inhabit if you are ever to be a Serious Writer. (If you possibly can, you should probably acquire consumption, too, or at the very least a severe cold.)

So there it is! A guide to writing better, from someone who you can tell by now is entirely unfit to write anything more nuanced and sophisticated than your average presidential campaign slogan or those romance novels that people buy in airports. And to this you, too, might aspire.

—Elizabeth C. Keto is the incoming Campus Arts exec. She would like to thank her fabulous predecessors/role-models-in-chief Ha D.H. Le ’17 and Victoria Lin ’17, to whom she is indebted for actually good advice.

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