“Virtue would go far if vanity did not keep it company”
-- Francois de La Rochefoucauld
The quote above reflects something that those who write have to struggle with on a regular basis, and I am quite sure it is something you also did at some point if you ever attempted to write. It's tempting to get carried away with being very verbose and stylish when writing, or going so far overboard with prose and poetry that even Keats would blush. All of this is okay when you are writing for yourself (or anyone with all the time and patience in the world), or when you are free-writing for practice. But doing this when writing a fiction, or an article, or anything which people are bound to read (in a publication, or a website), pretentiousness will only ruin your reputation. A lot of us dream of becoming something comparable to the likes of Alan Moore in terms of storytelling, Grant Morrison in terms of ideas, Chuck Palahniuk in terms of satirical setting or Craig Clevenger in terms of descriptive writing. A lot of us want to be able to execute extremely convoluted storylines with plenty of quotable moments, but the marvelous big picture of the house often makes us forget the art of laying the bricks in the right places. Those being the details, which if not paid attention to, could come back to haunt us.
So here are some of the bottom level bricks to pay attention to when trying to avoid crossing the certain line between smart and sloppy:
* Using complex vocabulary.
* Using confusing sentence structures.
* Going with rather verbose and unnecessarily obscure descriptions.
* Use of phrases that barely anyone else can decipher.
I often find myself being carried away with my undue confidence in my grammar. To the writer himself, it's fun to flaunt Literature Major level vocabulary, and construct complex sentences so he can sit back and bask in his Vulgar Display of Flower (case in point) with his writing, but would readers respond to it positively? Not necessarily. The problem is most readers might not even get what you are writing. This brings us to a very crucial factor, which is how well we know our readers. Complicating the writing style a bit too much will annoy readers, pushing them away - and so will dumbing it down too much, so we need to find a balance. We need to keep in mind that a writer's job, in its core, is to convey, not to obscure. Substance is more important than style.
Yes, most of us claim we write for ourselves and nobody else, but the latter won't entirely be true when our writing involves other people reading them, be they friends we turn to for getting our stuff checked, or those who read our writings on the internet, or in any publication. In such cases, we have to keep the readers in mind and the last thing we should do is to make them feel that they are wasting their time reading our work. Writing which you put out there for all to see is not supposed to be self serving only; let's face it, none of us are fond of the unnecessarily long and rather pointless essays for Facebook statuses which do nothing for us (or even make us chuckle at least). Now imagine something as dull stretched onto a piece, a short story or a novel.