This week’s guest poster is my friend and writer Simon Farnell, who is discussing the power of writing simply. Enjoy!
Months back when Ari was looking for guest post writers I volunteered to write a guest post for her. For some strange reason, Ari thought this was a good idea. At the time, I didn’t realise what a huge honour this was as she is one of the top writing blogs around.
I have spent far too much time working out what I could write. I’m a fairly simple guy, I write some sci-fi and fantasy, I blog and sometimes I write some stupid stuff. So now I have this chance to guest post for a great writer’s blog, what do I write about?
The power of simplicity
To me this is is something that can be very overlooked in writing. I find this especially true in science fiction reads where the writer is trying to be clever.
They have this amazing (and it really is amazing) idea but somehow the story has got lost in long words and complicated ideas or speak that leaves me quite confused and often detracts from the plot.
A big part of where I found my bug for writing came from a one-day work course where the whole theme was around making your writing have more impact. The idea is that this is achieved by writing with normal everyday words and simple writing structure.
It’s said that where a piece of writing has been made simple and easy to understand the writer comes across as more intelligent than a writer who has used complex words and structure.
An example of this could be:
The proximity of the warships was going to endanger the peace treaty.
The peace treaty was in danger with the warships close by.
Now proximity isn’t such a long or complex word but it makes the point. Using complex words, or rather an overuse of them can turn the reader off. Also, notice what I did with the sentence, I swapped the two points over, there was one point about the warships being too close and the other about the peace treaty.
Depending on the message being conveyed at that point it could be argued that the peace treaty being in danger is more important to know than the warships being close together. So this is the other point about putting power into writing is ordering what is being communicated in the right order.
While this is away from the fiction arena, a good example of this can be found in emails.
Have a think about how often you’ve received an email like this:
I hope you had a good weekend. I was chatting with Matt the other day and he said… blah, blah, blah.
I thought next weekend we could meet up for a beer… blah. Then I picked my nose… blah.
Have you written that report yet?
The point here is that so much useless verbal diarrhoea has been used to distract the reader from the message. The email should literally be asking if the report has been written yet. That’s it.
This happens in fiction too and I’ve tried so hard to read a story (I’m not going to say what it is) which is full of wonderful thoughts of the author but is getting in the way of the story.
So for me, it’s really not just important, but imperative this extra detail is kept out otherwise the story is killed, strangled by the weeds of extra detail.
The next aspect will make some if not most of you groan – punctuation. I’m not saying I’m the greatest at this, in fact in many ways I’m awful. There is a certain power to punctuation that needs considering in making writing stand out. Consider the following sentence, but don’t kill me just yet:
A woman without her man is nothing.
Right now I can feel the knives in my back from you ladies, but this can be changed completely without using a single word:
A woman: without her, man is nothing.
See what I did? The whole meaning of the phrase was changed with just two bits of
When I’m churning out the words I’m often not paying much attention to the punctuation, but as we’ve just seen using it well, or at least thinking about its use can strengthen and reinforce the part of the story being written.
With these facts in mind, what else does a writer need to do to get their message across? The story is a message in a sense after all. Quite simply, audience.
Who are we looking to talk to? Young readers with modern and crisp language or maybe the techno sci-fi geek or maybe even a fantasy reader, drawn into the journey and the rollercoaster of emotions that go with it?
How often as a writer can we say we consider the audience in our story and really thought about what style they are looking to read? I know for me I don’t consider it enough and that’s something I need to improve on.
Personally I’ve picked up some books that should be a cracking read, I look at them like some kind of beautifully decorated cake. But when I bite I find the words unpalatable, dry and without anything to whet my appetite.
I hope this has been useful to you if you’ve read this. I was hoping to embellish more on this but I kind of ran out of words and time.
I find these little things can add a lot to what I write and I know now when I’m not really obeying the rules and I wince a little when I do it. If anyone reading this has something to add then I’m always willing to learn something new and will be looking out for it.
Thanks to Ari for letting me have this slot on her blog, maybe if it’s not a total disaster I could pop by again sometime.
My name is Simon Farnell, I’m an engineer, creator, free thinker and writer.
For far too long I had ideas and nowhere to put them for the world to see, that’s why Planet Simon was created.
I’m an experimenter, explorer and fascinated by the world around me and the people in it.
My exploration goes further than the known universe and expands out to universe’s I’ve created in my mind and put onto the creative canvas.
Connect with Simon
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Big thanks to Simon for being this week’s guest post. I hope you all enjoyed his article. Do check out his links and if you have any questions or comments for Simon, leave them below.
If you are interested in guest posting on this blog, please do check out my Guest Post Policy before contacting me.
I’ll be back tomorrow, see you then. As always, leave me your thoughts in the comments below and if you want to see something specific on this blog, drop me a message.