Thursday, May 20, 2010

Self Help

I was working in the self help section of the used book store today, which is probably why I'm in a self help sort of mood. I'm ready to diagnose and solve any problem with seven simple steps--or something like that.

I was just talking to my mom about my novel THE CHARMED BRACELET. She is the perfect reader because she can be a bit like a hummingbird. If you actually catch her sitting down, she is probably folding laundry, dispensing sage advice on the phone (usually to me), and reading a novel at the same time. And if that book loses her attention, she's gone. She's got too many other things to do to waste any time on a story that bores her.

I used to be the complete opposite of my mom when it comes to reading. I never skipped a single word--not even the somewhat annoying poems in Lord of the Rings or some other epic fantasy. But lately I've noticed that I'm getting a little pickier about what I read and don't read.

When you have to skip things often, or you get lost in the action because you can't keep up with the author's play-by-plays, it's irritating. And ultimately it takes you out of the story. So I've been trying to trim the fat off my writing. In fact, I trimmed a LOT. As in, I easily went from 116,000 words to 97,500 words. But there's that last five pounds I can't seem to shed. Why is that?

I think it's because I'm a control freak. I want you to picture my story exactly the way I picture it, so I'm going to tell you in precise detail how the protagonist walks across the room (yawn), how she turns her head (Zzz), etc. Ironically, the same control issue that leads me to over description, is probably what makes me skip the description in other books. Don't tell me how that looks! I already know.

So I'm a work in progress--as a person and a writer. Writing is a kind of therapy, I guess.


  1. I'm a weird control freak. I too want my readers to see things exactly as I see them, so I might over-describe movements like that, but then, I don't want to break up the action, so I end up not fully describing the room or the world, and end up with people asking for a better sense of setting. It's so clear in my head, but it doesn't make to the page (and then the book is already super long, so I think "Don't add more description!"). I am still trying to find that balance between description and action. Maybe I always will.

  2. Yep, me too. I think it will always be a bit of a struggle to find the right balance of description. But knowing is half the battle, right?