Thursday, 7 July 2011

Between 'writing' and 'being writerly'

I did a rant post several months ago wherein I decried authors who use the thesaurus too much, thus adding words to their books that they'd never use in regular life.  Nathan Bransford's page critique today bought up what I was trying to say, only much more succinctly:

Now, allow me sidetrack a bit to digress about between "writing" and "being writerly."

Writers describe. They illuminate and clarify. When you're writing you're painting the proverbial picture in the proverbial reader's head.

When you're being writerly, your writing is making things less clear with clever word play.

I don't mind authors who can use big words well in their work (like Umberto Eco, China Mieville, etc.).  What I don't like are authors who feel that in order to be Authors, with a capital A, they have to use words they're not comfortable with or metaphors that obscure rather than clarify their text.

I believe this is where those writing workshops and experience come in.  From my own reading (and writing experience) it seems that debut authors try to gain respect for their work by using all the literary conventions they learned in high school (similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, etc.), rather than clear efficient language that tells the story they want to tell.  I guess that's why most books on writing I've read mention getting rid of all the adverbs.  They're filler words that often don't add anything to the story, just to the word count.

But if you want me to stop reading your book, use lots of big words that don't fit the characters or story and make comparisons that prompt me to say, "WTF?"

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