I have known people who thought the ultimate criticism was to have someone tell them that their manuscript was easy to read. And I have known commenters who snickered about their ‘cleverly designed insult’ when saying just that about a piece of work they were critiquing.
The fact is, we have known for generations that easy reading is damn hard writing and easy writing is damn hard reading.
Who said it first?
It’s a bit hard to know for sure. I first heard it from Dr. Maya Angelou. She recited it giving the credit to Nathaniel Hawthorne during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. She used it as an example of her own wisdom in writing saying:
“You want the reader to be twenty pages in before she realizes she is reading.”
This has never been more true than now. Who has time to look up words and dissect sentences, reading and rereading until the meaning of the paragraph marinates past our eyeballs and into our brains? The occasional web post on a blog is fine. An entire novel of time-consuming evaluation belongs to the retired and those studying complicated issues. For the masses, we want clarity and we want it now.
Peter E. Abresch has even written a book dedicated to this philosophy – “Easy Reading Writing.”
This concept was never more true to me than during the past challenge for Nanowrimo.
I tackled my first ever young adult novel. The only problem I encountered was trying to mimic the language of young adults. Would a twelve-year-old boy use the word sluice when describing the downpour of rain off of a roof?
I doubt it.
It has been a decade since my son was twelve, but I can remember the way he talked and the shrugging of shoulders accompanied by the slight upturn of his mouth when he was frustrated. These are the things that build a believable character. And once I am finished with the story, much editing will be involved. For now it is easier to write the way I am accustomed and worry about how it all sounds later.
So how did I do during the November challenge?
I expected to have more issues than I did since I had never written anything for that age group. Except for the occasional bout of research – which annoyed me as I should have thought more about it during the planning phase – it went more smoothly than anything I have ever written before. I didn’t have the 26,000 word writer’s block – or the plot problem – or whatever it is that plagues me at that particular place in finishing a novel.
But it isn’t finished either. It has turned out to be a more complicated story than I imagined and the flavors of melding two societies and tackling the issues of bullying and coming of age have led me on an inward journey.
I validated the word count at 54,658.
And it is only getting more interesting to me.
So stay tuned. I plan to keep at it until the entire novel is laid out, because the one thing I have learned through the many years of my participation in this project is that keeping the novel in my head, keeps the characters in my mind. I don’t lose their anxieties, dramas, concerns, heartaches, joys, and frustrations the way I would if I put them all to bed and came back a month or even a week later.
And I want to give a shout out to all of the participants in nanowrimo. It isn’t an easy challenge, especially during November, which I think is the point. If you made any inroad into a novel during one of the busiest months of the year, then imagine what you can do in February, March, May.
Thank you for the encouragement you have given me too. Knowing that my readers were holding my feet to the fire gave me extra incentive to show up every morning and afternoon at the chair in front of my computer and slip off into the world of a young boy dealing with trauma.
So, how about you? How did you spend November and if you joined the nanowrimo challenge, how did you do and what did you learn?