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The characteristics of “light” and “heavy” writing

Let’s start from the fact that “writing lighter”, as well as “light writing”, “light pen” etc. are all polonisms. Polish people will say these phrases to describe writing which flows smoothly and is easy to read.

When I was a teen, I’ve heard it very often about my writing. However, I wasn’t sure what made my writing this way, and with time, I think, I lost the capability to “write lightly”. It is so, because “writing lightly” is a characteristic of young writers, and once you start studying literature, you will associate “light writing” with “inaccurate writing”. Right now, I don’t think that “writing lightly” is writing in an inaccurate way. I think that it’s a style, like using too much adverbs etc. There is a war about adverbs out there, I’ll write about it, soon.

Let’s focus on “light writing”. I think that the best way to understand it is to compare it with its opposite: “heavy writing”.

The Polish people will often say, “classical books are heavy”. This means, that classical books are written with an old language, that they are difficult to understand, characters are not relatable, and too many descriptions disrupt the quick flow of action. To make matters worse, such books are very long – and a torture to teens who have to read them year by year (I’m not surprised so many teens gave upon reading later). Examples of Polish writers who wrote “heavy books” are Henryk Sienkiewicz and Eliza Orzeszkowa. Examples of foreign writers who wrote “heavy books” would be Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Kiran Desai and Haruki Murakami.

Actually, I like Haruki Murakami’s writing so much that I never realized he was writing “heavily”. It was my Japanese friend who pointed that out to me. She said that reading his books in Japanese is a challenge. I couldn’t respond anything to that, as I don’t speak Japanese.

The fact that somebody writes “heavily,” doesn’t mean that they don’t have talent. It only means that their books require time and patience to read. These books are to be savored, not swallowed. There is an audience for these types of books. However, that audience is harder to find. Children, teens and young adults are out of the question, as they haven’t matured enough to read these types of books.

Think about the books that you hated the most when you were young. I bet it was “heavy writing”.

And now let me ruin a popular myth for you. Ready? Three… Two… One…

You don’t need to read heavy books to master the art of writing.

I’ve made this mistake. When I was in high school, I was part of the IB Programme. In the IB Programme, we were reading William Golding, Joseph Conrad, George Orwell, J. W. von Goethe, Arthur Rimbaud… and others. Their books were difficult to understand, unrelatable, and made me believe that I also had to write like this. Write “heavily”.

So what did I do?

I started filling my writing with long descriptions, info dumps, difficult vocabulary and weird metaphors.

After I went to college, where my choice of books became even better. I was reading Edward Said, Cao Xueqin, Jia Pingwa, Carlos Castaneda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Booker Prize laureates. After all this, I realized I couldn’t read anymore. I hated reading. I bought books, but I dropped them all after a few pages. My friends felt the same. “I used to read a lot when I was younger, now I’m done,” they’ve told me.

I realized I had to read something “lighter”. I downloaded a few freebies on Amazon and realized that *fanfare sounds* not every book that sells well is “heavy”. Hence, the bestseller =/= bestwritten article.

Which was extremely liberating. I decided I would go back to “light writing”. And I finally figured it out. I saw, what it takes to turn a heavy book into a light one, and to write “lightly”. Today, I’m sharing it with you:

  • Make a conscious choice to “write lightly”.
  • Write more dialogue.
  • Do write descriptions, but make them significantly shorter and not as complicated.
  • Do introduce your character’s background, but delete everything that isn’t necessary for the plot that is currently taking place.
  • Mark every fragment that you find boring and either delete it or replace it with a shorter fragment.
  • Use less complicated vocabulary (“kiss” instead of “osculate”).
  • Focus on the action.
  • Limit personal problems and social issues; instead, add some romance or comedy to keep the mood bright.

And that’s it. This is what makes writing “light”. Don’t be afraid to write “lightly”. Also, don’t be afraid to write “heavily” if it works for you.

Heavy books are loved by critics, but light books are loved by readers.

No matter what you choose to write, it’s a win-win.

I hope this helps.

Stay inspired.

Author:

Hi! I am an author. I've published my debut novel in 2015 in Poland ("Dokąd teraz popłynę?"). My main genre is fantasy and magical realism. I often discuss socially difficult topics in my works and try to pass on a message of hope. I am always inspired and I never stop writing. My writing inspirations are Bruno Schulz, Pablo Neruda, Kiran Desai and Haruki Murakami. In my private life I am a polyglot. I believe in the Law Of Attraction and I write about it on UltimateManifester at Wordpress.

2 thoughts on “The characteristics of “light” and “heavy” writing

  1. Thanks for clearing these up! I’ve been wondering what that meant. : ) I like “heavy” books sometimes. Other times, I stumble across a “light” book, and I feel all the stress of daily life just falling away. It’s sometimes nice to read simple writing.

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