Or, rather, clear fiction.
(Yeah, I know I missed a post yesterday.)
Here’s the next piece of advice in the Writer’s Digest 25 Ways to Improve Your Writing in 30 Minutes a Day article:
You have to lead your audience through a tapestry of facts, ideas and events. No matter what you’re trying to get across, you have to get it across, so keep it simple—unless complexity improves it.
In 30 minutes, examine your work for the following:
- A Stake in the Action: Readers need one. Drop the first shoe early to get them listening for the second, and give them something to care about.
- Logic: It’s the most important element of clarity. If you’ve written something that doesn’t quite connect, try saying, out loud, “What I’m really trying to say is …” and then finish the thought. Sounds crazy, but it usually works.
- Bumps in the Road: Check your work for brilliant phrases that you’d love to use somewhere, anywhere—but that interrupt the momentum. I used to cut and paste my elegant gems into a “futures” file; it rightfully became a cemetery.
- Verbosity: Avoid longish, meandering quotations by paraphrasing. Save the quotation marks for particularly revealing or quotable statements.
- Jargon: Save it for cocktail parties—unless it’s the everyday language of your audience.
Keep it simple.
I learned that the hard way when I submitted the beginning of my novel to Flogging The Quill. I had a prologue, an introductory quote from the Spanish expulsion order from 1492, a paragraph explaining the historic setting, and then finally, the first chapter where Andreas and his father, Enrique, try their best to fill the reader in on what’s going on.
Needless to say, it didn’t go over too well…
I did modify the beginning. Did I manage to address all the points that Mr. Spikol pointed out?
A Stake in the Action/Give Them Something to Care About – I left a portion of the prologue. I know, I know – how reads prologues? I do. So, you might. Plus, the folks at the BayCon Writer’s Workshop said that was on of their best parts. Okay, that might mean that the rest was horrible and the prologue had the only redeemable portions in it, but, still, it caught their attention! So, I pared it down a bit. I hope it still has some impact and gives you a character to care about: a small girl with wings.
Bumps in the Road – this is an interesting concept. I’m not sure I know what Mr. Spikol is talking about. I sure don’t think I have any “gems” in my prose. I know there’s probably some boring bits, and I hope the good folks at Critters will point those spots out so I can cut, move, or modify. Maybe they’ll even point out those “gems”.
Verbosity – Ah, one thing I am not guilty of. I think the two places I do this, one containing a prayer in Latin and another with an inquisitional summons, actually moves the story along – I think. It’s only two spots and can easily be cut if folks deem them unnecessary.
Jargon – This is something I am guilty of, in the sense that I litter the manuscript with Spanish words. Hey, give me a break – I removed all 150+ footnotes!
I’m not sure I have applied this lesson to my manuscript well enough, but I’ll re-examine it with this in mind once I get it back from critters.