Writing Naked Is Harder Than It Sounds

Posted: March 20, 2014 in Self-publishing
Tags: , , , ,

As much as I’d like to blame my inability to write naked on the five-thread-count, burlap-inspired upholstery that covers my writin’ chair or Mother Nature’s insistence upon Rick-rolling the Midwest and points east regarding the arrival of Spring (and the departure of triple-layers of clothing. Indoors.), there’s only one culprit when it comes to the Curious Case of the Clothed Composer—Stephen King.

By writing naked, of course, I mean writing clean, concise, uncluttered prose—the sort of prose your eighth-grade English teacher would proudly share with her Tuesday night bridge club. When I was a kid, I read everything in the house: Shampoo bottles, cereal boxes, a Nixon-era incarnation of Collier’s Encyclopedia. I also read Stephen King. Lots of Stephen King.

I’m not pooh-poohing Mr. King here. Quite the opposite. I consider him my greatest influence as a writer. But to my eight-, then ten-, then twelve-year-old eyes, his work resonated with me almost as much for its appearance on the page as for its actual substance. There seemed to be italics or bolding or underlining of text (or, sometimes, a glorious combination of the three) on nearly every page. (Keep in mind, this was long before Internet comment sections were invented.) Factor in the em dashes, ellipses, and epistolary segues, and my overactive little brain was finally receiving the nourishment it had been so cruelly denied by the California public school system, circa 1980-something. That dressing-up of words still creeps its way into my writing.

You may have noticed the unholy mess that constitutes the first sentence/paragraph of this web log post. By my count, I’ve included two commas, four apostrophes, five hyphens, thirteen capital letters, a parenthetical (complete with periods and sentence fragments), and perhaps the lengthiest chunk of alliteration in literary history. I won’t even get into the forced pop-culture references. And y’know what? I love it. It was fun to write. Fun to write, but hard to understand for readers. Well, sane readers, anyway.

I suppose most of my desire to fanci-fy my words comes from plain ol’ boring lack of confidence in my writing. Since I’m the first writer in humankind to feel this way, I feel obligated to remind myself that all the italics and ellipses and Random Capital Letters (RCLs) in the world won’t make a bit of difference if I’m not constantly striving to improve the substance of my work. So I solemnly pledge to keep doing that.

Thankfully, as much as I love to dress up my writing for a night on the town, I’m able to rein in that urge come editin’ time. For the most part. I love me some em dashes. And italics. And short sentences. Fragmented or not. But most of all, I love for the reader to know what the hell I’m trying to say. So here’s to me mastering that skill one day. Like Stephen King has.


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