How To Write Good, no wait, Well.
So I am a writer. I know it’s hard to believe because I just started a sentence with so, and I do it often, but shit, this is my blog and I follow no rules. I also am a big fan of NOT TRYING TO HARD. Nothing annoys me more than shitty writers who try to write well and come off sounding like total tools. One of my other trades however, is editing. Editing is fun because you get to sift through bullshit of people who are trying to hard all the time.
But once, a long time ago, I got the chance to work with Chris Heavner. I enlisted him to write an article about wakeskating entitled “Win a Date with Cassette” for the premiere issue of Alliance Wakeskate. Actually it was his idea, and he did an amazing job, but it was way too many words for the pages of the fledgling web zine. I was forced to hack the shit out of it (one of my least favorite things to do) and I told him I was doing so with the disclaimer, “if you are bummed on what I do, you never have to write for me or talk to me again.”
He didn’t talk to me for years (until we randomly bumped into each other in Chicago,) but to this day I am not sure if he just didn’t have any other ideas or if he cried himself to sleep over my editing and didn’t want to face me ever again. We’ve lost touch over the years, but he recently came back across my radar after a conversation with his brother, Chase. It seems Chris is trying to transition from print to web, and I wish him the best with that. I figured I could even check out his efforts now that he’s embraced the ‘net. Thanks to the magic of links, I found him.
Among the well-worded gems on his site was a post entitled “How to Write a Good Story.” It’s funny, informative and much better articulates exactly how I feel about trying too hard.
2. Keep it simple.
Say you and I are friends. Say you’re walking down the street and you see me walking towards you. You smile and you wave and I see you and I smile and wave and when we get closer together we hi-five and I pull you in for a bro hug and even though that’s a little weird for you, you’re cool with it cause we’re such good friends.
“Hey Chris,” you say, “What’s goin on, man? How’s your life?”
I laugh heartily, arms akimbo like a genie, and say “Simply splendid dearest friend. And what an auspicious occasion for our twain tracks to intersect as my satchel is abounding with delectable ephemera and other such pleasantries! Let us feast like the kings of yor, my proprietor of such friendshiply delights!” After staring at me in silence for a moment, you punch me in the face for talking like a fucking idiot and you walk away.
Don’t pull out the big words cause you want to sound smart or more like “a real writer,” whatever that means. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use florid language. If you can wield the language well, like a Zadie Smith or a Jonathan Lethem, then more power to you. It can come out as some truly pleasurable reading. But the truth of the matter is, those people are geniuses and the rest of us are not. Words are tools used to convey meaning and feeling. If you’re not a professional contractor then it’s probably not the best idea to pull out the concrete drill and start boring away at the walls. So leave the fancy talk to the fancy people. Write with your own voice.
While this is my favorite piece of advice, all of his points have merit for fiction, or non fiction, if you want to write well. Of course, if I was going to add my two cents it would be “keep it under 500 words” but that’s what editing on the Internet will do to you. Anyway, check out the full post and don’t ever send me a shitty story again.