A “proper” writing scale

This is something I’ve thought about off-and-on for a while in regards to the writing critique groups I belong to. It is something I can just visualize, so bear with me as I try to put it into words.

Picture a set of screens getting progressively finer. On to this you dump various writings. The first screen catches the blocky “See Jane run” size, while “finer” writing passes through. Each screen sorts out better writing. “Better” defined both by whatever writing standards exist, but more by personal taste. For example, I recently read a scifi classic written in the 1930s. I found the story rather clunky – or coarse – because the world famous scientist goes into his lab and the next day comes out with a device that will give men limitless energy. That was stopped by my “that’s not how science works” screen.

The result of all these screens is you eventually end up with writing that is “just right” for you. That’s perfectly understandable and most people read books written to their “scale.” But what about people like me who critique works written at various scales? For the most part, I’ve been lucky in that most of what I critique is written close enough to my scale that it’s not a problem. On occasion I’ve critiqued clunky stuff, but usually the writer was young or just starting out, so I could overlook it to be encouraging. My biggest problem – however – are the writers who write stuff that is smaller than my preferred scale. (I’d say finer than my stuff, but that’s just silly. :P) I dump their work in the screens and go down to my level to find nothing there. Instead of pebbles I’m now dealing with sand and I get a headache from straining to see it. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. Shakespeare is finer than my writing, but I don’t read Shakespeare for pleasure.

I first started thinking of this years ago when I tried to figure out why I had such trouble reading this one guy’s writing. He writes on a much finer scale that I usually read and after reading two pages of his writing it felt like I’d been reading for an hour. Since he writes about things I have an interest in, I was able to connect to it, and I now look forward to reading his sand grains, but I know to set aside plenty of time to do it.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that this super fine writing style seems to be used a lot in religious or philosophical writing. When you write about the purple skinned, two-headed aliens of Gamma Ceti VII, you can write in pebble scale. But after thousands of years of thought and debate, I doubt there are many pebbles of philosophy left. It’s all rearranging dust. If you are really into that, that’s fine. If not, you just get a headache from straining your eyes.

Hopefully, that all made sense.


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