If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.—Cicero
Our culture is so saturated with information that we can literally make ourselves ill (and crazy) from it. We are drowning in pictures, TV, billboards, books, magazines, the Internet…you get the picture. Do you know there are rehab treatment centers where people go to kick Internet addiction?
Authors, imagine how your audience will love reading a book that exudes simplicity. This is the first tenet of the workshops I present for prospective book writers or fiction and nonfiction: “Bombard with simplicity.” I invite them to subscribe to Elegance Theory. The writing must:
- Say what needs to be said and nothing else.
- Present ideas in the style most engaging to the target readers.
- Follow a natural arc (beginning, middle, end).
As an editor, I find, with startling regularity, what I call “kitchen sink” writing—narrative that includes “everything but the kitchen sink.” Say that I am editing a business book and find that includes the author’s childhood, world history, philosophy, genealogy, politics, arguments on gender roles…what else can be added? Chili recipes? Dog training secrets? It is a common tendency, one that I have learned to correct in my own writing.
Here’s an analogy. Imagine writing that comes across like a Jackson Pollock painting versus text that reads like an enso.
Which is more likely to hook readers, immediately and intensely?
The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the greater the profit.—Felelon
This is not to say that writing copious amounts is a bad thing. In fact, it is helpful to overwrite in the extreme while brainstorming ideas. Write everything you can think of and leave out nothing. You may surprise yourself when you “go with the flow,” pen (or type) anything that rushes through your mind, without scrutiny. Later, go back to it and pare ruthlessly. Trim narrative fat like Gordon Ramsay cuts through a flank steak.
More often than not, less is more.
~~~~~~~~~~~Lori Stephens, pNLP, CCP has mastered an approach to developing book manuscripts that blends high organization, clarity, and intuition. Her skills have been honed through experience with clients ranging from indie authors to Fortune 500 corporations. Her forte is working as the writer’s coach and “inspirarian,” and she says, “I take the time to understand the tone and message of your writing as well as its marketing strategies–in this way, I align precision with purpose.” She is the owner of Verbatim Editorial and has published four books. Lori recently joined the freelance team at www.theprobookeditor.com and agreed to become a regular contributor here!
- Overcomplicated Simplicity – My article for AHA Authors Helping Authors. (susanpolp.wordpress.com)
- Read. Write. Dream. Butcher. (loriwatsonbooks.com)
- How to cope with disappointment from high expectations (aprilsavage.wordpress.com)
- A Writer’s Process (4) (lmarie7b.wordpress.com)
One thought on ““Bombard with Simplicity” by Lori Stephens”
Thanks for the shout-out. I also follow this advice while drafting. I throw in everything as if I were making a chopped salad. “Write hot, revise cold” someone said. Wish I could remember who!