Friday, May 30, 2008

WRITING ROUTES 101: #1 Leaving Out the Boring Parts

It's something I've read more than a few times lately from some of the best pros out there - past and present.

The question:
How do you keep readers turning pages?

The answer:
Leave out the boring parts.

But just when you thought you had a clear view of the road with this refreshing and oh-so-straight-forwardly-simple-advice, suddenly it fogs over to leave you peering through a thick, soupy mess, uncertain of how to proceed. That succinct little five-word sentence you were about to tack up over your writing space is now weighed down with a ton of addendums attached to its end - such as:
  • ... and remember what's interesting to you as a writer may be boring to the reader - it is after all your baby...
  • ... and remember your readers are new to your creation and need touchstones to anchor themselves in reality so they can all the more easily suspend disbelief...
  • ... and remember to use all your senses to enhance your reader's experience, drawing them all the more strongly into your story...
  • ... and remember to give the reader a context so they don't get lost...
  • ... and remember to layer your characters to give them dimensionality and make your readers care...
  • ... and remember to interweave layers into your plot to give the reader a sense of reality because after all, no situation exists in a vacuum...
  • ... and so on...
  • ... and so on...
Yikes! What's a writer to do?

Instead of revving your engines and setting out on your writing journey, you find yourself stuck in one place reading the mechanics manual, with time flying by and not a single word closer to getting your book written.

My way of juggling all the addendums is to do this in a THREE STEP approach.

Just write and leave out the boring parts - for you!
In other words - only write what's interesting to you - not what you think you should write. Holly Lisle calls it the 'candy bar' approach. Only write the scenes you're excited about writing - the ones you can't wait to write - the idea being that you fill in the gaps after. Ideally ALL the scenes you write should be ones you can't wait to write and believe it or not - this is absolutely possible to do without sacrificing the continuity of your story. It's a matter of either finding the right approach to the scene that makes it fun to write or leaving it out all together. The 1st draft is for the writer only and this is where you go to town, have fun, write all the weird and wonderful stuff you've been looking forward to then - once you're done with draft #1 - sitting back to look at the result before you go any further.

Leave out the boring parts for the reader.
This is where you read what you've written as a reader instead of the proud author you can't help being when you see your words on a page. This is where you get rid of:
    • unnecessary description
    • unnecessary dialogue
    • unnecessary flashbacks
    • unnecessary internal monologues
    • unnecessary characters
    • unnecessary action
    • unnecessary anything!
Step one is about what parts of the story you tell and what parts you don't.

Step two is not about the scenes (story parts) so much as what goes into the scenes - the details and how they're told.

Once you've got that down then you can edit and rewrite to your heart's content. This is where you can use a checklist - if you want and/or need to.

The important thing at this stage is to get the story down. Once it's on paper (or saved on your hard drive) then you can push and pull it until it's in the sort of shape you're proud of.

And this is where STEP THREE comes in.

No matter what you add or subtract, expand or summarize, the thing to remember as you edit and re-write is always to:
'Leave out the boring parts!'

Coming up on future Writing Routes 101:
Giving Your Story Roots - How To Use the Right Details
Bringing Your World To Life - Drawing Readers In By Their Senses
Write on!
The Ink Gypsy

No comments: