Over-Explaining a Scene

Let’s talk about heavy explanation in a scene.

For example:

I saw the light on over the door. It must be my sister, coming home late from the dance. I heard laughter outside, followed by giggling, and then quiet talking. She must be with someone. Her date brought her home, probably. I looked out the window to see an unfamiliar truck at the end of the driveway. Yeah, definitely not her vehicle. It was probably John from down the street, the guy she’s been crushing on for a month now.

Yes, yes, we get it–you’re very observant, Protagonist. Everything is over-explained to us and now we’re annoyed by subtly having our intelligence insulted. Always assume your reader is smart enough to guess what’s going on in a scene. If you drag out the scene, it gets boring really fast and we’ll probably skip over it to reach the good parts.

Try a simpler approach. For example:

I saw the light on over the door. It must be my sister, coming home late from the dance. I heard laughter outside, followed by quiet talking. Without moving from the stairs, I waited for her to come inside and then grinned as I asked, “Who were you with?”

“John,” she said, a bit sheepishly.

Now the protagonist is being direct instead of acting like a shady creep. And now we get some interaction between two characters instead of a giant bubble of thoughts shifting around in the protagonist’s mind. It’s so much more enjoyable to read about “action” than the musings of a character (and by action I mean the plot is moving swiftly instead of at the pace of a snail).

This little problem often pops up when the protagonist is describing something–like a place or clothing or another character. Tolkien’s works are often disliked (not by me) for his long explanations. High fantasy can be excused at times for this, though not when it happens repeatedly. Terry Goodkind explains what a Mord-Sith is about a bill-zillion times throughout his series, and always with the same exact passage. I always skip it because it’s unnecessary. Detail is good; too much detail feels like the story is being stubbornly dragged out. Try to find some common ground between what’s too little and too much in a scene.

For example, if you spend a whole page talking about a tree, I’m probably going to skip through that rather quickly. And repetition can be a serious flaw in a story. For everything that is good and holy, don’t repeat yourself. I caught myself a few times in a previous manuscript with my protagonist explaining her problems repeatedly, and deleted all mention of said problems, allowing the reader to figure the problems out through the character’s failures and struggles instead. Show, don’t tell. (I was going to link to my post about showing instead of telling but I think imagined writing it, so next month I’ll probably touch upon the importance of showing instead of telling if I can’t find that blasted post before then.)

Happy writing,

Sandra

The Secret World of Dragons Rewrite

I said a while back I was going to rewrite my YA series The Secret World of Dragons, and I’ve finished writing the first book in the series a few weeks ago. Now I’m going through the revision process.

Writing a YA series at a young age was a blast, but–looking back–I felt the books were missing the kind of lively writing Sky Knight (my steampunk novel) had to offer. Now that I’ve grown as a writer and accumulated shining reviews that acknowledge my writing ability, I decided to go back to the world of dragons and reshape it into something better.

Old readers of the series will appreciate the additional scenes and furthered development of the characters, and new readers will (hopefully!) enjoy the world of Draconis from a fresh perspective.

For those of you who are interested in The Secret World of Dragons, check out my blog next week when I release the first chapter for free. I’m really excited to reveal it after sitting on the manuscript for weeks, and am hoping to get some feedback on the story.

I haven’t forgotten the sequel to Sky Knight, of course. The final chapters need a bit of research to pull off, so I’m having trouble nailing them down. They’ll come to me in time.

Happy reading,

Sandra

For Procrastinators (Like Me)

So you’re a procrastinator. Most writers are (from what I can tell, at least). Over the years I’ve found different ways to battle against procrastination, and I’ve compiled a list to help my fellow sufferers. You can thank me later (get it????) Ha ha ha…. ahhhh.

Ahem.

  1. Reading! This is not only fun, but it helps you learn. Reading improves your writing ability and often sneaks a word or two into your vocabulary.
  2. Blogging! If you’re stuck on your novel, write a blog post about what’s on your mind. Sometimes it helps. Other times you’re stuck staring at the computer screen. In which case–
  3. Social Media! This seriously helps clear my head. Interacting with writing peers and talking about books always helps me get my focus back. At the same time it also helps build your writer platform, so it’s all good.
  4. Chores! When you’re procrastinating writing, even chores can be accomplished! Trust me, I’ve cleaned a lot of things to get out of writing a chapter I’ve been stuck on.
  5. Watch a Show! People (the scientist-kind) say you should have breaks while writing. Taking a 40 minute break to watch a television show you’ve fallen behind on is a great way to relax until you need to write again.
  6. Motivating Snacks! Mmmmm… snacks! No ice cream until you write that page! Usually works well.
  7. Organization! Figure out what you want to write before you sit down.
  8. Write about what you want to write about– Basically, write a blurb of the scene you just can’t get out of your head. After a while, it will come to you.
  9. Setting! Not the one in your plot. That one is important, too, but I mean the room you’re in. Have good lighting and a comfortable place to sit. I tend to zone out if the lighting is poor and I get sleepy. Avoid that. It makes you think about bed. Mmmmm… bed.
  10. Coffee or Tea! Last but certainly not least, the ultimate motivation: having a cup of hot coffee or tea! It always gets me out of a tired, procrastinating state.

Hopefully some of these tactics will help you get back into the zone.

Happy writing,

Sandra