I’m reading “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print” by Renni Browne and David King. There are many valuable theories and tips, but one in particular resonates with me. In a funny way.
We’re writers. Creativity flows. Characters are born. Stories are told.
We pour our passion out onto our pages. Words like diamonds sparkle in our minds and turn into works of art. And then, we have to edit and find out if we must. . .
RESIST THE URGE TO EXPLAIN
But, we’re writers. We want to explain! Seriously, isn’t that a touch schizophrenic? First we craft the stories of our hearts and then we have to R.U.E.? We rue/regret what we wrote? My head almost exploded from the irony.
After I took a big breath, I read on. This doesn’t mean you automatically cut sentences to the bone. It’s all about the editing.
R.U.E. is about telling that’s been duplicated in the narrative to explain when it’s already been shown in either dialogue or action. In fact, many times, the writer has already shown something in dialogue and action and then proceeds to explain it in narrative just to make sure the reader got it.
So, when editing, if you find yourself explaining a character’s emotion, take it out. If the emotion is still shown, you don’t need the explanation. Cut it. If the emotion isn’t shown, rewrite that part.
An example from the book:
Bob got into his broken wreck of a car.
Rewrite: Bob got into his car, reached under the dash, and twisted two bare wires together to start the engine.
The action Bob applied shows the reader the condition of the car. I could have continued to show with the sounds of the gears grinding, smell of oil burning, etc.
The same applies to dialogue. Don’t take the easy way out to explain what your character is feeling. Show your reader the emotion behind the words.
“You can’t be serious,” she said in astonishment.
Rewrite: She dropped the whisk, splattering meringue up the cupboard door. “You can’t be serious.”
See the difference? More, but better. So, now my head doesn’t have to explode. I still get to explain, but do it better. Improve the story. Grab the reader.
Remember when you go through the editing process.