We are given advice in all aspects of our lives. Career advice, life advice, marriage advice, writing advice—everyone has an opinion and most are willing to share it. How much of that advice do you follow? Any of it worth listening to, or repeating?
I have found one piece of advice to be useful in almost any situation, and it is easy to remember. The acronym is K.I.S.S. and it stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. I’ve heard variations of this advice for years. Probably the first version I remember was about lying. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a terrible liar. My wife has told me that I’m the worst liar she ever met (as in I can’t lie worth a crap). Still, I remember from my childhood being told that if you’re going to lie, keep it simple. Why? Because the simpler the lie the easier it is to remember.
I first ran into the acronym KISS a couple of years ago. It was actually in a management handbook my boss gave me, and I realized that I had been following that philosophy for years but had never recognized or articulated it. Since that time, I’ve recognized the wisdom of those words in most things I do. Recently it came to mind when I was reading a book, and got me thinking about how it is good advice for writing as well.
I was reading a fantasy novel, which I’ll leave nameless because I wasn’t impressed. In fact, it’s one of the few books I’ve set aside without finishing. I kept pausing because the action scenes in the story were so over-described that it put me off the story. I’m a fan of good storytelling and I like a convoluted plot, but please keep the writing simple. By simple, I mean concise prose with no extraneous words. We’ve all read stories where the writing interrupts the flow of the story and we skip to where the story picks back up again. This book made me want to skip almost every paragraph. To me, it felt like the author was trying too hard to be entertaining and ended up overdoing it.
So my advice to all writers out there, including myself, is Keep It Simple Stupid. Keep your writing style simple, and let the story wow your audience. Knock out those extra words, the unnecessary adverbs, the convoluted sentences, and just write simple prose that tells your awesome story. In the end, it’s the story that draws in your reader not over-the-top prose.