23 May

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. . .



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.

Book example:

“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.



Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Idaho


18 responses to “R.U.E.

  1. johannaharness

    May 23, 2011 at 5:21 AM

    Love this, Janis! Great examples.

    • Janis McCurry

      May 23, 2011 at 7:39 AM

      It’s a great book. Thanks.

  2. Liz Fredericks

    May 23, 2011 at 6:27 AM

    Oh Janis, wow. Thank you for the AHA moment on ‘the explain’. I think that I need to buy the book unless you’ll promise to share more….. 🙂

    • Janis McCurry

      May 23, 2011 at 7:39 AM

      I know! It AHA’d me as well. So easy to understand. And the authors use a Great Gatsby scene in one part to make points about editing.

  3. Clarissa Southwick

    May 23, 2011 at 7:28 AM

    I confess this is something I have to work at. It’s harder than it looks. Thanks for some great examples.

    • Janis McCurry

      May 23, 2011 at 7:41 AM

      We always hear about respecting the intelligence of the readers, but I think it’s ingrained in us that we want to make sure we get our points across. And we’re afraid we don’t do it justice with only dialogue or action.

  4. Meredith Conner

    May 23, 2011 at 8:39 AM

    Great post Janis! Thanks for the examples – so simple but so tricky!

    • Janis McCurry

      May 23, 2011 at 10:24 AM

      Thanks, Mere. I guess tricky keeps us out of trouble.

  5. Tracy Wilson-Burns

    May 23, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    This is also a challenge because it’s so hard to “see” through the eyes of the reader. Is what we write obvious? Too obvious? Repetitive? Needs more showing/telling… This is where it’s really helpful to have critique partners who can be our beta readers.

    • Janis

      May 23, 2011 at 7:18 PM

      Very true, Tracy. Thanks for dropping in.

  6. Carley Ash

    May 23, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Great tip Janis. Thank you.

    • Janis

      May 23, 2011 at 7:19 PM

      I love finding great resources.

  7. lynn mapp

    May 23, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    Janis, you made is sound so simple…but we know this is the hard stuff. Thanks for sharing the examples. Now all we have to do is apply the message.

    • Janis McCurry

      May 24, 2011 at 7:17 AM

      “That’s the rub” as a famous person once said.

  8. Kathy

    May 23, 2011 at 10:27 PM

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve read this before, but in my elderly mental moments I forget, and need a kickbutt reminder on occasion. This was a good occasion while I’m in my final rewrite.
    Don’t you just love it when you can say “IT’S DONE!!”
    Thanks for the ‘AHA’ moment.

    • Janis McCurry

      May 24, 2011 at 7:17 AM

      Thanks for dropping in and congratulations on being in your final rewrite!!

  9. Mary Vine

    May 24, 2011 at 8:43 PM

    This is something I struggle with, too, so it’s good to read about “RUE.” Thanks!

    • Janis McCurry

      May 25, 2011 at 7:02 AM

      There is so much to remember! 🙂


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