From Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project"
I love a great novel. I am in the middle of an epic novel right now, “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts. It is beautiful; the language is poetic, the plot is addictive, the characters complex and identifiable, and the setting is palatable. I wish I could write like Gregory David Roberts. I have bought a good dozen books on “how to write.” I have never gotten close to the level of GDR. Sigh. And then I read Anne Lamont’s book, “Bird by Bird.” What I love about Lamont is her honesty and humor. I can aspire to that. She insists that “shitty first drafts” are just a part of the process, I can aspire to that too! And, most importantly she writes about subjects that are not easy to write about…loss, sadness, addiction, disappointment, death. But I always finish her books feeling hope, inspiration and meaning. Tears sometimes wrapped up in a belly laugh!
Stephen King. I have never really been a huge fan of Stephen King. He has published 54 novels and over 200 short stories, so far! Where do these fantastical ideas come from in a single person? His imagination is incredible. I don’t think I can aspire to that!! But his book, “On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft” is one of my favorite books on writing. And my favorite quote in the book is: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Omit needless words. That I can aspire to. Make your writing concise if you want people to read it. More is not better.
This theory was confirmed by an article I read today by another great writer, James Altucher. Ever heard of the F-K Score? Nope? Me neither! The Flesch-Kincaid Score was developed to determine at what grade level you are writing. Now one would assume that “simple” writing would warrant a bad score and flowery and descriptive writing would warrant a good score. Wrong. The F-K score is a function of how many words per sentence (lower is better), and how many syllables per word (lower is better) in your writing. A 10 means you are writing at a 10th grade level, 12 at a 12th grade level and on.
Here’s the funny thing. More, bigger and longer words and sentences are NOT better. If you want your writing to be READ (the whole point!) then simple and to the point is KING! Gretchen Rubin is a NY Times best selling author of “The Happiness Project.” It has sold over a million copies. Her F-K score is a 5. Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea,” a 4. “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, a 6. Good sales writers have known this for ages. They aim for a score as low as possible. And anything over an 8 is considered BAD sales writing.
You might think, fine but I am not SELLING anything. Oh yes you are. You are selling if you want your writing to be READ. And if you want to be read then write below an 8th grade level. Eschew (ha, good word, but NOT effective) flowery language, semicolons, and run on sentences. EDIT. Eliminate words and sentences that are showy. By the way, the F-K score of this blog…4.5. Bam!
let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. -Rumi
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