Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Move Along

How hard are your words working for you?

As we get into our second and third chapters, my classmates and I are hearing the dreaded words: too much exposition. It's an easy trap to fall into. We try to fill in back story without leaving behind an info dump, we try to build character without telling the reader, we try to set the scene without a big block of description.

It's a lot to do.

Real live teens might sit around and chat just for fun, but in your book, their conversation has to have a purpose. They need to be revealing character, moving the plot and/or sharing info the reader needs to see. And they need to be doing it subtly. Every scene, every sentence, has to drive the story forward.

Are you feeling the pressure?

A lot of times we do this without thinking. Then there are those days where you move the same five words back and forth until you're ready to poke your eyeballs out. Been there.

But I'll share a little secret: finishing is half the battle. My class started a few weeks ago with 15 people, 13 people turned in outlines the second week. The following week, only 6 of us turned in our first chapters.

That's a pretty steep drop off.

It's hard work people. Not everyone can really make the commitment. Getting past the exposition is just the beginning. But if you're one of those people who perseveres, who puts in the time, you'll get there.

Make your words work. Some day they'll return the favor and be working for you.


Beth Kephart said...

where the heck are getting all your wisdom?

I want some of that.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

So true! If we mean it, we have to be in it for the long haul. This is not a fast-acting dream. :-)

Yat-Yee said...

It is so true that finishing is a victory. The drop off sounds steep; we'll all keep cheering you on.

Kelly Polark said...

That class sounds really worthwhile!
That certainly is a lot of pressure to make sure every sentence has a purpose!

Jackee said...

Just what I needed to hear today! Thank you!

The last online class I took was the same way: it started with 20 people and only 5 or 6 finished the class. What was the point in paying for it if you weren't going to stick with it?

kathrynjankowski said...

Kudos for staying with your story, Sherrie!
Yes, it's a challenge to maintain momentum. When I review my writing, the question that pops up is, "Why do I need this?" Words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes. If there isn't a compelling reason to keep them, out they go.
It's brutal, but necessary.

Corey Schwartz said...

You know, some people wonder on 24 ... how does Jack go a whole day without eating or going to the bathroom? But I thought Stieg Larsson (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) went to the other extreme. It is a hugely successful book, but I don't care what Mikael bought at the grocery store and what he made himself for lunch! For the life of me, I can't figure out why we got daily menu reports.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, you're so right! Working at it, continuing, finishing. That's MOST of the battle.

So keep at it!

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Ah, yes, I always run into the dreaded flashback. Sigh. I'm still working on those scenes for my book. I took them out, now they're going back in. It IS hard work!

Tess said...

It is a process, no doubt.

And - true true about the excess exposition. That is one thing that will have me put down a book for good. It just drives me crazy. I love a tight read. Now if only I could write one ... ugh.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting and very helpful reading your progress through the course you are doing. Thanks :o)

Windy said...

This class of yours, wow it's working wonders for me too! :)

Great post. Better go check that I kept things moving...

Rebecca Gomez said...

You're right! Thanks for the pep talk.

lisa and laura said...

Oh gosh, I hope so! You are very wise.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Beth: You're wisdom shines through with every word you write!

Shannon: Pretty much the opposite of fast-acting!

Yat-Yee: Thanks for the cheers :)

Kelly: The class is extremely worthwhile. Just a lot to think about :)

Jackee: Excellent--glad it helped. And yeah, I can't imagine spending the money and then not putting in the effort.

Kathryn: Brutal, yes, but it makes it better in the end we hope!

Corey: Excellent point -- there are a LOT of details we don't want to know!

Elana: I WILL keep at it and finish. Thanks for the encouragement :D

Glam: I'm facing the same struggle in places. Sympathy!

Tess: I might finish reading the book, but I'll skip the excess to get to the "good" parts :)

Niki: Glad it helps!

Windy: I'm so glad it's useful for you too :)

Rebecca: You are so very welcome!

LiLa: I don't know about wise :) I think writing about it helps me process it too.

Anonymous said...

It's hard work. You said it. But I think it's worth it--I just don't think the ideas and inspirations come without the work.

You're in this for the long haul-thank goodness. I need the good company. :)

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