Easy Reading Writing

easy reading about writing easy reading
by Peter E. Abresch

Table of contents for this page

        EASY READING WRITING - [Chapter ONE]
        EASY READING WRITING - [Chapter TWO]
        EASY READING WRITING - [Reader comments]

        EASY READING WRITING - [Quick Link to easy order Easy Reading Writing]

Updated 07/25/18

What's it all about?

First the challenge:
       Slap an eye on any page of Easy Reading Writing (or start at any place in the two chapters below), if you have trouble reading anything, hey, place it back on the shelf. It means I don't know what I'm talking about.

Then the writing:
       There's no back door to effective writing. We can either grab for the quick and easy, the clichéd, and TELL our readers about some old castle, or with a little more effort and knowledge, we can squeeze each word so that it works on many levels, and in so doing transport our readers back to that castle's drafty old keep where they'll freeze their buns off as the wind howls outside. This is what Easy Reading Writing is all about, to help us in the quest for the words that will not just inform our readers about the bards of old, but set them right down in the sand to warm their hands by a desert campfire, while an ancient teller-of-tales stands under the stars and spins his magic.
       It's a lonely and heartbreaking business, full of mountain highs interspersed with soul numbing lows. But if you have a burning zeal to string words together, be not of faint heart. Talent is cheap. It's tenacity that's expensive. And you keep at it simply because you cannot not write.

ONE: Motivation

When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it's your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself. That's the true test of writing. When you can do that, the reader gets the kick and you don't get any. You just get hard work and the better you write the harder it is because every story has to be better than the last one. It's the hardest work there is.      Ernest Hemingway

       Easy reading is damn hard writing.
       That's a quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne and I'm here to attest to its veracity. If we want to write so that readers will pick up our work, become submerged in it, move into our story like they are watching a movie--better still, like they are living it--then that requires damn hard work.
       So if you're looking for an easy way to fame and fortune, you might want to consider placing this back on the shelf and tiptoeing away.
       Also, it takes some knowledge to write easy reading.
       Just because we can walk eight miles doesn't mean we are ready to hike up Mount Everest. To reach the summit we'd have to learn climbing techniques, where to drive pitons, how to cling to rock faces.
       What we'd need is a Sherpa guide.
       So it is with writing. Just because we can pen letters and memos doesn't mean we can write a novel. This requires a special knowledge of building characters, working out logical plots, handling believable dialogue--all learnable but necessary skills.
       That's what this book is about.
       It's a Sherpa guide up the rock face of Plot-line Mountain.
       The problem with books on writing is that they are often difficult to read. Does that sound right? Good writing should be easy to read. If we are trying to teach easy-reading writing, shouldn't our books on writing be easy reading? Or at least interesting reading? Leaf through this book. If you are having trouble reading it, hey, toss it onto the shelf. It probably means I don't know what I'm talking about.
       There are also some dangers lurking here.
       Fiction writing is addictive.
       You laugh, but once I started building worlds on paper I found there was always a force calling me back. It didn't make any difference how many failures I had, how many rejection slips I collected--more than my share--how many times I smashed up typewriters or suffered through hard drive crashes, I could never turn off that seductive siren call that still wafts across the water on my brain, whispering how big my next novel will be. Oh, yeah.
       So unless you're serious about stringing words together, jam this book back in the stack.
       Fiction writing is also coolie labor. I'm on my computer first thing in the morning and many times I'm still there, with breaks for food and naps, till nine or ten at night. This for a salary that would turn away day workers in Bangladesh.
       So if your thought is to pop out a few fast mysteries and make some easy bucks, well, do I still have to tell you what to do with this book?
       Writing is like painting, or playing an oboe, or maybe even like basketball. If you want to be good at it, you practice everyday, often not knowing whether you're getting better or worse. And it isn't about success. Of all those out there trying, how many actually make it to the NBA? Or play oboe in a major orchestra? Writing is a hunger not dependent on money or admiration. And not so much on talent, folks. Talent is cheap. It's persistence that wins the day, the dogged struggle to be better, to find another way of conveying feeling, joy and sorrow, light and darkness, of colors playing in the shadows. In the end, it's the struggle that becomes the mission. And I keep at it because, when it's right, those rare moments when it's on, and an idea or a phrase comes drifting out of the ether so startling I have to say, "Wow, where did that come from," and I know it's a keeper; it's like being touched by God.
       This book is an expedition through the briars and brambles that link those rare moments together. It will not guarantee that you will make big bucks, or even be published by a non-fee press. I would be less than honest if I didn't tell you, contrary to what is splashed across magazines and book covers, the odds are stacked against that. What this journey will do is give you the tools to help you become the best writer you can be, to solve some of the problems of which Hemingway said, "We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master."
       If you feel like it, climb aboard.

TWO: Welcome Aboard

There's talent and there's potential. Potential is what you make of your talent.     Lance Armstrong,winner, Tour de France (although convicted of doping, the remark still stands.)

       No one can teach you to write fiction.
       Say what?
       Then why did I buy this book?
       Because we can point out the elements that are necessary to go into good fiction. Like drawing characters that live and breathe in our readers' minds. Plots that unfold like a movie in our readers' minds. Dialogue that rings as true as the spoken words in our readers' minds.
       That's the fiction writer's field of play.
       We're not in the business of TELLING stories.
       We're in the business of building images in our readers' minds and bundling them together to SHOW a story.
       When you stop to think about it, that's probably the whole reason language was invented in the first place.
       For essentials man could always get by with an odd word here or there.
       Bread. Water. Meat. Sex. Headache.
       Ah, but when he came back to his cave and wanted tell his woman and children the story of the hunt, it required taking the pictures in the storyteller's mind and building them in the listener's mind. To do that he not only had to evoke images of things the listener knew, but also of things the listener had never imagined. To do that, he had to string words together. And to do that, he needed language.

       He stood on a ribbon of sand stretched taut between leaden horizons and walled in by a somber sea on one side, faceless dunes on the other. A lone gull scudded by on the gelid salt-air with only its plaintive cry to break the solitude of wind and waves.

       What senses do we touch upon here? Sight, of course. Salt-air recalls the smell of a beach and perhaps the taste of it upon our lips. There's sound in the gull's call and in the wind and waves. The gelid air reminds us of the feel of a cold wind upon our skin. That's all five senses. But we also use words that play on our emotions: lone gull; faceless dunes; the solitude of wind and waves. All these combine to give us the feeling of isolation. Walled in by a somber sea, the dunes, and leaden horizons gives the feeling of being boxed in. Finally, he stood on a stretched taut ribbon, as if something is about to snap.
       Our job is not to tell our story; our job is to choose words that will start the movie projector rolling in our readers' minds, words that coax out sensory memories--see, taste, touch, smell, hear--to trigger our readers' imagination and life experiences. If we could take a snapshot of the image the above description evokes in the minds of a hundred people, they would all be different, depending on their individual environment, education, background, and DNA.
       Do we care?
       Not a whit.
       What's important is that our readers create their version of our world inside their heads, because when they do that, it plops them right in the middle of the action, and they experience the story taking place around them.
       That's what our job is.
       It's not easy.
       Easy reading is hard writing.
       There are no books, formulas or computer programs that will insure success. If there were, we'd all be using them.
       We can point out the direction to the mountain top, but each of us has to make the journey on our own. And none of us will take the same path.
       I've read books on writing that say to be successful you must build your characters first, that you must work out your plot first, that you must start out with an outline, that you must not start out with an outline.
       We all have individual memories, imagination, life experiences, word prints, DNA. Each guitarist has a different strum. Each painter a different brush stroke. Even a telegraph operator has a different fist, the way they key dots and dashes. Just so each writer. Only by working at it can we learn to develop our own unique style, our own unique way of stringing words together, the unique characters and unique stories that reside only in our unique heads. Only by writing and rewriting can we develop a smoothness that leads one sentence into another, one paragraph to another, and one chapter into another. These can only come about by connecting our mind to our fingers and doing it over and over again.

The Writing Tripod

       Even so, it takes three things, like the legs of a tripod, for a story to stand.
       Plot. Characterization. Effective writing.
       We can talk about other things like dialogue and description, but these slip under more than one heading. Good dialogue not only comes under effective writing, but is also a feature of good characterization. Description's not only part of a good plot, it is a feature of characterization, letting us see both the picture and the one who sees it. If the writing's effective, it will also convey mood.
       Plot. Characterization. Effective writing.
       If we forget about any one of these tripod legs, the whole structure comes crumbling down. We might put more emphasis on one, such as a literary work might be read for the pure joy of the way words are strung together, but if we eliminate plot, it goes nowhere and we have no story. If we drop characterization, we can have a good story line and effective writing, but people that nobody cares about. Good plot and good characters, but poor writing, who will bother to plow through it?
       A fantastic plot might occasionally get by with cardboard characters, and some genres do pay less attention to characterization, but how much better if we people this fantastic plot with characters our readers can identify with and care about?
       On the other hand, a character story will suffer if it doesn't have conflict and suspense to drive it. Then there's effective writing.
       Effective writing, folks, is rewriting. It's reworking everything until it is sparse, crystal clear, conveying mood and sight and feel and taste and sound, using no more words than are absolutely necessary, squeezing out the fat to leave a rich, simmering broth. It is the soup that binds the flavors of plot and characterization as surely as that of chicken and garlic.
       In these days of shrinking budgets, it is important for us to give publishers a story that refuses to be put down. If we are strong in one category, we have to study and work on the other two to bring them in balance.
       But we know big name authors with cardboard characters, right? And poor writing? And dumb plots? How come big names get away with slop?
       Agent Joshua Bilmes of the Jabberwocky Literary Agency put it this way. "When an author comes to an agent he is selling two things, his sales history and his book. The more you have of one, the less you need of the other."
       Since we have none of the former, we need all of the latter.
       I'm telling you all this because I wish I had known it thirty-five years ago. I believe I've always had good plots, but I had no idea about characterization. I had no one to sit me down and point out why my hero was a stick figure, or how to make my sentences flow. That's what we're trying to do on this writing adventure.
       If all this sounds daunting, folks, remember we don't have to get it right the first time.
       Consider the work of a potter.
       Anybody can roll clay into long ropes, stack them into a vessel, and fire it into a pot that will hold water.
       But if you want an elegant vase that is not only utilitarian, but is pleasing to the eye as well, you have to turn it on a wheel, work it under your fingers, shape it, reshape it, maybe punching it down to start again. And again. Only the fingers and eyes can tell when it's right. The more you do it doesn't mean it will get any easier, but the practice will more perfectly transform the image of the mind into the mud in the hands until, one day, it passes from the stage of clay pot into the realm of fine art.
       That's the secret of fiction writing, folks.
       Not being afraid to write something badly.
       And then sitting down alone at the wheel and turning the jumble of words into a thing of art.

Easy ordering for Easy Reading Writing

To easy order a copy of Easy Reading Writing, easy reading about writing easy reading, from Amazon, please click on [purchase Easy Reading Writing].
And thank you. May it make us both best sellers. Me first.

Mail Me

My email address is: Peter (at) sidewalkbooks (dot) com, putting in symbols for at and dot and taking out spaces.

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Adventures in Fiction Writing

      This BookMarc © logo used to vector to an adventures-in-fiction-writing site, a series of free articles and discussions on fiction writing techniques, and while I may reinstall it at a later date, I am too busy to keep up with it right now. PEA, 7/25/18.

Readers' Comments

       Thank you, thank you, thank you!
       May I use an exclamation point here, Peter?
       Just wanted to let you know I am half way through your book, Easy Reading Writing, and I love it...please let me indulge myself and put three exclamation points here...!!! And the humor is great. I just wish it had been available years ago. You have presented the novice and professional with a wonderful tool.
       I have learned so much, and you have reinforced what I already knew but needed to hear again.
       I wish you great success with it. I will be showing it to our local libraries.
       The best,
              Dusty Bunker, One Deadly Rhyme   www.dustybunker.com

       Hi, Peter:
       Just a note to share with you how much I am enjoying your book. It was definitely worth waiting for. I posted a 5 star review on Amazon so I hope the word will get out.
              David Soper   dsop@uswest.net

       Thank you so much for the Easy Reading Writing. It's the most helpful and enjoyable read on the subject that I've had. I have read other books about writing and they are, for the most part, dry and dull or the author is patroniz ing. I'm signing for the free e-mail newsletter that comes with it. I always enjoy hearing from you and want to continue to learn.
              Cathy Stanley :-)   stanley-cs@home.com

       Finished Easy Reading Writing last night -- I was impressed and agreed w/99% of what you had to say. Thought your style was great with all the little Peterisms you used--note that I did not surround that w/quotes. I think it oughta be a hit in the writing circles & libraries. Could've used a bit of proofreading, but that just makes me an English teacher, not a writer.
              Dorrie O'Brien, Editor, Write Way Publishing   dorrie@peakpeak.com

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