Statistics show nearly half the marriages performed in our nation today, end in divorce. Not so in the writing world. Writers rarely divorce their words. Once they marry the phrases and emotions within their written words, they become detrimentally attached.
The words we craft become very sentimental. Rightfully so. Lots of sweat goes into our creations. Long hours of thought, tweak and re-tweak, and when we’re done, the work-in-progress is nothing short of a masterpiece. But is it?
Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics once said, “Much is lost but if for one more effort.” Truer words have never been spoken. To the writer, the finished work is at its best. The piece drives home the perfect thought, readers are moved, the ending is perfect. It’s everything we’d hoped it would be.
Until an editor gets it…then everything falls apart. The writer’s attitude is, “Nothing more can be done to make this work any better.” Their mind shuts out any suggestions that might actually bring clarity to the reader. The best advice I have for aspiring writers is, “Don’t marry your words.” There are always better ways to say something. Keener ways to phrase. Better twists.” But often, these words of advice fall on deaf ears. Some feel there is no room for improvement.
Part of the art of writing is learning to listen…to edit…to rephrase and rethink. What is clear in the writer’s mind may be muddy to the reader. Here’s why.
The writer has all the twists, turns and motives in their head. Sometimes in their haste to get those things on paper, important details are missed. I once read a proposal where the entire second chapter referred to “she” and “her.” The first chapter contained four different women, so when I asked the writer to clarify, she was insulted. “Can’t you follow the characters?” She said.
Actually, no. With four female characters and no identification other than she and her, the plot could have been stupendous, I’d still not been able to follow.
As the writer, you know the most intimate details about your characters. Unless you share those details, the reader meets a void. . . .a void that will make them close the book and never finish.
Too much back story bores the reader. Part of the fun in reading is learning about the character as you go. Little snippets of their lives are revealed bit by bit rather than, what publishing calls, “information dump.” As the writer, we feel as though we need to explain every minute detail to the reader when in fact, readers are pretty smart people.
Let the reader have their fun. Let them live inside the fiction bubble you’ve created. Allow your reader to experience and grow to love your character as they walk their paths with them.
Don’t become a statistic by marrying your words. Instead, form a healthy relationship, snipping and pruning so growth can occur.
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