Friday, October 5, 2012

There IS a hurry

Whatever your age, “Take it easy, there’s plenty of time” is a wonderful motto—except if you’re writing a novel.

Readers love efficiency:

  • Details that simultaneously build scene and setting
  • Foreshadowing that hints outcome while revealing character
  • Minor characters that echo the protagonist’s dilemma
  • Description that advances dialogue while adding symbolism

Readers also love efficient sentences:

  • Crisp diction
  • Smooth syntax
  • Parallelism
  • Structure echoing content

In 1657, philosopher Blaisé Pascal quipped, “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” That’s still true. It takes longer to find double-duty details (although you’ll get better at it) and longer to write a concise, elegant sentence (although you’ll get better at this faster still).

No matter how long it takes, novels flow only when every moment, every description and every single word advances the story you want to share: moment to moment and sentence to sentence.

Tip: Whatever fails to add literally subtracts.

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