Writing Tips: Don’t Be Too ‘Writery’

Image result for images of boring book

Y’know how some movies are annoying because they’re so actory? By “actory” I mean that they seem to have been made only to give actors an opportunity to show off for each other, with no consideration for any wider audience.

Some of you, naturally, will someday want to try your hand at writing fiction. If you do, please to try not to be too “writery.” Like you might be imagining some reader shaking his head in awe and admiration and muttering, “Wow, this guy’s better than Hemingway!”

What makes prose too writery? Well, tell me what’s wrong with this picture:

My [bleep] personal life was like a goose without a gee, a slapstick tragedy. The hairs on my legs stood up and laughed at me. I live face-down in that ignored Gomorrah that calls itself Fashoda, New Jersey, along with all the rest of the acrophobic midgets and the songs that voices never share…

Imagine half a dozen pages of this, and you’ll get the picture.

For almost every purpose imaginable in literature, plain English will suffice. If you’re William Shakespeare, of course you can go beyond that. Way beyond it! If you’re Ross Macdonald you can tiptoe right up to the edge without falling off. But most of us are better off just saying what you mean.

I say it’s an achievement when the reader of your book loses the awareness of reading a book. Something to shoot for, eh? Or, to paraphrase Sun Tzu, “The supreme art of writing is to write without writing.”

17 comments on “Writing Tips: Don’t Be Too ‘Writery’

  1. Great advice. I read a series of fictional works about sports car racing in the ‘50s, and while the stories were great, the writer “overwrote” almost every line in the book, including repeating his over definitions as often as possible. I eventually gave up on the series because, frankly, I didn’t care about the characters enough to slog through his style.

    1. I know what you mean, just yesterday, I was thinking about Bernard Whiffle and what he said about lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut scelerisque ex sed faucibus sollicitudin. Maecenas blandit egestas tortor ut fermentum. Mauris condimentum tortor erat, vel rhoncus neque interdum imperdiet. Aliquam erat volutpat. Cras tempus sodales dui, id rutrum lorem semper sit amet. Morbi magna sem, luctus quis elit sed, varius condimentum risus. Sed facilisis quam ut nunc lacinia ullamcorper. Morbi condimentum venenatis massa id malesuada.

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      And I stand by every word of this. 🙂

    2. Wow, I haven’t seen this filler-gibberish in a long time! I can’t believe you wrote out the whole thing! (Or, more likely, pasted it in.) Hilarious. 🙂 🙂

    3. We also used to use Lorem Ipsum as filler for layout of newsletters and other desktop publishing projects.

    4. Show off! E pluribus unum. “And I stand by every word of this” – that’s the part I don’t understand – lol.

  2. “The hairs on my legs stood up and laughed at me.” OMGee – LOL!!! You are one of the best writers ever!

  3. I am currently making my way through Ron Chernow’s “Grant.” It is wonderfully written (can’t ever wait until the next time I can get back to it) but way too much detail for my style. I highly recommend this book – who knew U.S. Grant was the best friend African-Americans ever had? And you know what the “S” stands for? Spoiler alert: Nothing.

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