Layers

Layers


Sometimes the words don’t flow from my fingertips with the kind of ease I would like them to. This is not writer’s block. I haven’t any trouble coming up with a sentence, paragraph or story.

What I have a problem with is the way that it reads. It lacks the sort of flow and rhythm I would like for it to have so I attack it…repeatedly. Sometimes this works and discover that writing and rewriting is the solution, you know it is that bleed at the typewriter thing that Hemingway used to talk about.

And sometimes it doesn’t.

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.” – Letter to D. W. Bowser, 20 March 1880, Mark Twain

Were Mr. Twain available I would engage him in all sorts of conversations about writing and express my sincere regard for his advice. Plain language is exceptionally effective and something I try to use.

The only time I try to show off my vocabulary is if there is a need to cloak my message in the sort of obfuscatory verbiage that prevents clarity of thought and understanding.

In other words I want everyone who reads my work to understand what I wrote. I don’t need to hide it beneath layers of dirt and gibberish.

Sometimes Layers Are Appropriate

Sometimes layers are appropriate but that is usually when you are writing fiction. Layers work for fiction because when you create characters you want them to have substance and that doesn’t happen unless you provide it.

The most interesting characters to me always have some kind of depth. They aren’t just heroes or villains, they are people who made choices and followed a particular path to a particular destination.

I suppose you could write a series about a particular topic and use layers for that purpose. You would start out at station #1 and then add the layers that lead you the stations that come afterwards.

“You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God’s adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by.”- Letter to Orion Clemens, 23 March 1878, Mark Twain

Now were I to talk to my buddy Mr. Twain I would ask him about whether he thought about how long it should take between the thunder and lightning. I would ask him if he thought you could bring it down more often.

I suppose you could equate it to the baseball player who swings for the fences each time they come up. This is where your personal philosophy comes in because the person who swings for the fences tends to strike out more often than he/she that tries to pepper the field with base hits.

If you get enough of those base hits you advance the runner and sooner or later you score. Do it enough times and your team wins.

On the other hand it is not nearly as majestic or exciting as the home run. Home runs are a guarantee score and oftentimes they lead to the win. The biggest and best of them lead to the sort of inspiration you can’t buy.

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4 Comments

  1. Call Me T May 19, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Great post, Josh, and a much needed reminder on the importance of getting back to basics. Ol’ Samuel Clemens got it right. The greatest artists–musicians, painters, writers, and more–know when to add a little flair and when to put the brush down already. The blogs and books I enjoy reading the most are those that come from the writer’s true voice–what he or she might sound like conversationally if we were sitting down to coffee. I feel your writing translates well and I would expect you to sound just like this if you were talking. Mission accomplished, and nothing broken to fix here. Write on, dude!

    • Lori Gosselin May 20, 2013 at 5:51 am

      “Nothing broken to fix here” – 🙂
      I’m with you on this T. I love it when I’m reading something and feel as if I’m in the author’s head, watching the stream of their thoughts. How can one improve on that?
      Except to edit them down as I always have to do!
      ~ smile ~
      Lori

      • Josh May 21, 2013 at 8:48 pm

        Hi Lori,

        My favorite books are usually written by someone I come to think of as a friend, even if I have never met them. They just write themselves into my head.

    • Josh May 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      Hi T,

      I think I write like I talk, but I am really not sure. I do appreciate a conversational style from my authors so we have that in common.

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