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Tuesday, March 10, 2009


No, that is not the beginning of a playground song, it's a motto so many authors lose sight of.

Keep It Simple Stupid

Today is the first morning in weeks that I've have time to sit down, chill out, and catch up on everything on the 'net. Reading through several blogs, industry news, and then some work of my various critique partners I was struck by how complicated we, as authors, try to make something as simple and enjoyable as writing.
Simple writing, the uncomplicated and straightforward, is enjoyable to read.

I don't want anyone to think simple means rough or uncultured. A rough draft is usually the most convoluted thing in the world. Simple writing is writing that flows so well that the reader finds them self no longer reading, but simply enjoying.

If your reader goes through and is noticing word choice, you've done something wrong.

In an ideal world the reader will never walk away remembering a clever description, they'll walk away with the clear image of that thing in your head. (An exception is made for the spoken word in text- witty DL should stand out as words not just ideas.)

I think of the dandelion as something simple. It's a flower, generally considered a weed in most areas, sometimes used as a food or a medicine. It's a simple fluffy ball toward the end of it's life, but for all it's simplicity it is a very complex living organism. Hardy, tenacious, adaptable, complex... do you see the dichotomy?

If you want to write a story with nuance, metaphor, and deep meaning, you have to first start with the simple idea and build your way up. You have to choose your words not only for depth of meaning, but for clarity.

Before you go and write today (and I hope all of you try to write daily) make sure you know what your story is about. What you are writing is for you, it is the masterpiece you envisioned. Don’t be swayed by complex concepts that don’t apply or standards of writing that don’t compare. This is your writing, not anyone else’s. Don’t let someone else’s ideal of beauty convince you to do something ugly. Keep it simple.

Photo credit and copyright to Baraniaczek


  1. I'll just apologize up front for the font size issues. I'm not quite sure what happened and I have no clue how to fix it.

  2. Perfect post, Liana. I can help you with the size issues if you want. It's easy to fix.

    As for KISS, yes, I try to do this on a daily basis with my writing. I disagree on point, though. You say: If your reader goes through and is noticing word choice, you've done something wrong.

    Eh, just my silly opinion here. But I don't think that's always true. Some readers, like me, read to look for word choice. We like the language sometimes more than the story. Also, if your reader is a fellow writer, they might just be looking for word choice instead. So I think it's important to specify what type of readers you're talking about in your quote.

  3. True, some readers are more in love with the language than they'll ever be with a story. For those people (like you) word choice is very, very important.

    For me, if I notice a word choice it's because it knocked me out of the flow of the story and that makes me grumpy. I don't ever want to sacrifice the main body for a pretty bit.

    But reader types is a post for another day!

  4. Glad KISS doesn't apply to early drafts. I wrote a lot yesterday (compared to recent days), I wrote it all very fast. And I know some sentences were several lines long, and definitely not comprehensible as they currently stand. But I don't care. They are words!

    I hope my finished polished pieces make for smooth reading :)

    Fab post!

    (and yes I'm reading the suggestion to write daily, and I'm etching it in my head)

  5. I live for diction, symbols, language, metaphors and all that juicy stuff that leads us to look for deeper meaning. I like to be challenged intellectually. However, it is refreshing sometimes to just read a great story! ;-) Even then I look for flawed characters and precarious situations.

  6. I agree with you mostly on this. Simplicity is imperative for fun reads geared for entertainment. (Mine falls in that category, so I'm working for simplicity.) I think there is an exception, though, for certain types of writing as far as the "remember a clever description" part. For some literary works, much of my enjoyment on the text comes from the clever or poetic elements.