Friday, June 28, 2013

Injured Wings and Writing Tics

The ER doc said my arm wasn't broken. So no big deal, right? Almost two weeks later, I'm still wearing the brace and typing with an ice pack draped over my splint. This does not make writing easy. Yes, I'm complaining (sorry), but this isn't meant to be a pity post.

Instead, considering my bad wing has me thinking about things that keep our manuscripts from flying. Writing Tics, as Martine Leavitt calls them. All writers have these. Some of us have to go back and consciously insert setting into our work. Others have to add a sense of time or insert dialogue into pages of description.

At WIFYR, Martine Leavitt spoke of a need for restraint. Agent Stephen Fraser calls a similar tendency "chatter," and Alane Ferguson called a similar concept "burying your lead."

In essence, when you write the perfect line, don’t run right past it and on to more words. Pull back a little. As you edit, one way to look for this tic is to underline phrases that contain key points, then read the sentence that comes next. Even if humorous or cute, when these words detract from the previous important message, they may need a red pen death.

Similarly, when Martine told us to avoid cliche in describing emotion, she said a lot can be accomplished by having our characters simply pause. Not a long, dramatic pause that stops the action, but a moment for the character to absorb what just happened. In doing this, the reader will recognize its import as well.

Whether it's a character pausing briefly in the scene, or slashing a useless attention hog of a sentence, restraint can streamline our work and help us avoid one dreaded writer tic.

Tomorrow: more on cliche descriptions.

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