Daily Archives: March 11, 2015

The Art of Subtle Writing

I am the last person to spout about how texting and its shortcuts are ruining the written word. I love my emojis and emoticons. I use them regularly, but I have to admit, they’ve made me lose sight of something very important to me. Subtle writing.

In texts and on social media, these shortcuts are what they are, part of the fun. It never occured to me that it would spill over into my writing, and it was able to because I wasn’t paying attention. As I go through this final edit with the extraordinary Penny Barber, I am relearning lessons I learned long ago. Write invisibly. Trust your reader. Trust your words.

Before Penny, I’d have witten that like this:

As I go through this final edit with the extraordinary Penny Barber, I am relearning lessons I learned long ago–Write invisibly. Trust your reader. Trust your words.

Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, yeah, there is. The mdash and the italics say, “I’m here! Look! Me! The author!” They’re author intrustion of an insidious kind, because they’ve become easy signposts to spot, and that’s the point. We spot them. It’s not writing invisibly, it’ s not trusting my reader, or my words. You got it just fine the first time, right? Exactly.

Many years ago, the incomparable Teresa Nielsen Hayden  told me I write invisibly. It’s one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever recieved as a writer. Writing invisibly lets the story shine brighter. It allows the reader to not only see it clearly, but to put her own spin on things, to hear the characters in her own way, to give her own voice to the words she is reading. That is a beautiful thing, and it’s what makes a good story into something extraordinary.

Just this morning, I commented on a comment a friend made on Facebook. To this pic he wrote:

my futer home 2

Clinton Harris Pretty sure a witch lives there already. Like the kind that bakes children into large pies.
To which I replied:
Terri-Lynne DeFino I’ll have to ask for her recipe. Mine’s dated. (wink emoticon)
Not uncommon on FB to use the emoticons when you want to make sure the person recieving the message knows what you were going for. But did my friend really need that winky-face to know I was kidding? And how much funnier the subtle version is. Subtle writing, the lost art I am finding again.
I am the Sparklequeen. That’s where it all started. Anyone who knows me understands I think in exclamation points, I sparkle, I smile, I throw my hands in the air like a muppet and shout. Putting my personality on the page began with sparkletext on LiveJournal, and turned into the overuse of semicolons, mdashes, italics and all the other indicators that have become habit. When Penny started taking out my exclamation points and semicolons, my heart shriveled. I didn’t want to lose my voice. But what I have come to understand in the days of this edit is my voice is clearer without all those things. The beauty of my writing isn’t inserting myself in there, it’s taking me out.
This entire post would have once been rife with exclamation points and italic text. Now, not so much. And not only have I learned this lesson, but it has sparked another we should all, readers and writers alike, never forget. The learning process never ends. Ever.


Filed under Writing is Life