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Writing Tips

Jason Guriel on hoarding and keeping your best lines off Twitter

Jason Guriel was a reader for the 2014 CBC Poetry Prize. Here he offers some writing advice on creating an additional character—a smart but demanding reader whose attention you must grab.

quote-blue.jpgAvoid writing if you can. If you can't, avoid cliché, and be precise. Don't try to 'express yourself'; self-expression usually amounts to expulsion. 

Try, rather, to connect with another: picture a smart but demanding reader, and try to hold her attention. Ask of every sentence you write, why would this configuration of words keep the reader reading? Remember that she's busy and owes you nothing. Remember that entertaining her is a worthy feat and much harder than you think. 

Don't try too hard to be innovative; you'll only sound dated. Certainly don't be arrogant enough to regard yourself as 'avant-garde'; you're not, and anyway, you wouldn't wear a mass-produced tee that says, 'rebel,' would you? 

Know when to hold back, which is to say hoard; I saw the best minds of my generation waste their best lines on Twitter."

Jason Guriel is a poet and critic whose work has appeared in such publications as Poetry, Slate, Reader's Digest, The Walrus, Parnassus, Canadian Notes & Queries, The New Criterion, and PN Review. His poetry has been anthologized in The Best Canadian Poetry in English, and in 2007, he was the first Canadian to receive the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine. He won Poetry's Editors Prize for Book Reviewing in 2009. His latest collection of poems is Satisfying Clicking Sound (Véhicule Press, 2014), and his essays and reviews were recently collected in The Pigheaded Soul (The Porcupine's Quill, 2013). Guriel lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Photo by Stephanie Sliekers, courtesy of Jason Guriel

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