Friday, October 22, 2010

Is Simple Best After All?

Have you ever received a piece of information just a teensy bit too late? That happened to me recently! I have been reading "Revision and Self-editing: Techiniques for transforming your first draft into a finished novel" by James Scott Bell. Recently I sent my manuscript to a publisher, only to withdraw it due to some of the company's policies that I didn't agree with. But I am not sure that I quite understood just how unfinished my novel was. A friend introduced me over the web to a wonderful blessing: a young lady named Claire who has since been acting as a sort of editor for my book. She has opened my eyes to the fact that I have problems with telling my story instead of showing it. I laughed aloud one time at one of her comment blocks; she said something like: "You are telling the reader instead of showing them. This is a technique popular in classic novels like David Copperfield, Anne of Green Gables, etc." because you know, it's true! That is the great majority of what I read, and so naturally my writing conforms itself toward that ideal. The problem? The writing world has changed since then, and readers do want you to show them the scene rather than tell it is many words. :) But back to the book I've been reading. I had always assumed (and Mama with me) that when writing dialog, it was profitable, and better writing to use alternative words for "said". Therefore, my dialog is peppered with "retorted", "answered", "stated", etc. I avoided little generic "said", that gloriously all-purpose word out of fear for it's very usefulness! But here is a passage in the aforementioned book that struck my eye:
"An attribution tells the reader who is speaking. Almost always, the simple said should be your default setting. Some writers, under the erroneous impression that said isn't creative enough, will strain to find ways not to use it. This is a mistake. Said is almost invisible to the reader but for its primary use as a tag to tell us who is speaking. It does its work and stays out of the way."

Wow. This perfectly describes my writing! :) *blush* But you know, this is what writing is about. This is why reading is profitable. This is why scribbling is my passion! :) There is always something to be learned that you have not heard. So please listen. I wonder if the things I write now will seem as immature, and...awful as the things I wrote as a 12 year old. Back then, I thought them prime literature! ;) Now...I laugh ruefully, still remembering how I cherished those stories and poems. Doesn't it then stand to reason that what we think is a masterpiece in creation now, will be viewed in rather a different light 10 years hence? Therefore, do learn new techniques...until I met Claire, I had never heard of show vs. tell. She recommends joining a writing critique group, (which I have yet to do) because, as the old saying goes: "Two heads are better than one!" and others catch mistakes or flaws in our writing that may be blind spots. If I have learned one thing through-out my small writing experience, it is that you must view criticism not as a thing to be offended at and avoid, but...merely an opportunity to refine your craft, and make your story a thing to be proud of in 10 or 12 years! Hope you enjoyed this tip from "Revision and Self-editing" by James Scott Bell! It was definitely worth the purchase! :)


Carilyn said...

Ah! I bought one of his other books, Plot and Structure. Be warned, if you ever read/buy it, though, that it does have some not-so-Christian things in it. Be prepared with a marker, for those parts. =) But, it is definitely informative and beneficial to read, for an aspiring author.

Horse Lover said...

I do that too. Said IS boring, I don't want to use it all the time!