Don’t give me ‘great writing’ — Give me a download.

I don’t know if Chesterton is guilty of this. I’ve never read him. But he looks like a suspect. (Image credits: http://theatln.tc/1ITqWcR)


A note from your pleading readers

by Jonas Ellison

f you’re a writer with a sensitive ego, you may want to click out of this essay right about… now.

Still with me? Ok, good.

When I hear someone described as a ‘great writer’ my brain immediately starts to hemorrhage.

When I’m reading, I don’t want ‘great’. I want simple. Clear. Punchy.

I want reading to be like an instant download.

I want to suck it straight off the page into my brain. I don’t want to sit there and strain over it. I already have plenty of things to strain over in my life. It shouldn’t be your writing.

Don’t get me wrong. Tell me the whole story. Don’t leave anything out.

But don’t shove it all in one long sentence that takes you 4 days to work on.

My dad could rebuild an engine in less than 4 days. It shouldn’t take you that long to perfect a sentence.

Just say it. Say it well. Use powerful words. Active voice. Short (even incomplete) sentences are fine.

Reading homework

Don’t get stuck here for too long, but before you start writing well (not ‘great’), you’ll want to see how it’s done. Here’s some quick reading for ya. Trust me, it’s enjoyable…

First of all, read Simon Rich. One word for ya — hilarious. But simple. If you can make someone laugh out loud — crying — through super simple sentence structure and clear words, you’re a zen master, my friend.

Also read this book from Lee Child, the guy who wrote the Jack Reacher books (before Tom Cruise came and fucked it up).

Read David Sedaris. And James Altucher.

After you do this, you can graduate to David Foster Wallace. It’s up a step in complexity — about as complex as it should get before it gets obnoxious.

When you read these people, read their most recent work (except for Rich, pretty sure that kid came out of the womb writing well). As is often the case, writers need to write a lot of horrible stuff before they start writing well. You don’t want to waste your time with the stuff they hashed through early in their careers.

You’re studying here. No time to waste.

Get out of the way

The problem, most ‘great’ writers are boastful. They have to show off in their writing. Like a dog who pisses on every fire hydrant they walk by, these ‘great writers’ have to leave their mark on every sentence they write. They have to make their presence be known.

And this is where they fall flat on their face.

Your writing should be transparent. I shouldn’t see words on a page. I should only see images in my head.

I’m reading your words, not to cower in your glory, oh great one, but to experience something. So, please. Stop trying to be a ‘great writer’ and get the hell out of the way so I can feel what you’re trying to convey to me.

I want a download. Give me. A download.


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