While teaching his advanced reporting class, Dr. Michael Berryhill instructed his class on the proper forms of writing.
Berryhill is the journalism chair at Texas Southern University. He has written for multiple newspapers and the author of “The Trials of Eroy Brown.” While writing his book, Berryhill faced a common problem among writers, a manuscript that is too long. He met with Alexander Parsons, a creative writing professor from the University of Houston, who gave him advice that would affect how he approached writing.
“Start as late as you can,” Berryhill said. “That was the thing that help me cut out all those words.”
As a result, Berryhill was able to condense his manuscript from 140,000 words to 80, 000.
“I had 10 big chapters that must have been 10,000 or more words,” Berryhil said. “I cut those big chapters into three chapters each because I had in my mind ‘start as late as possible.’”
Berryhill noted the books The Iliad and The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother as books that follow the same principle. Both books start at high points that get the reader’s attention then provide background.
“You can go back into time,” Berryhill said. “Don’t begin at the beginning. Start at a high point with something that will catch the reader’s attention.”
Written for Texas Southern University Fall 2013 Advanced Reporting class.