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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Words to Write By: "Never Annoy Your Readers"

It's so simple. Yet so hard to follow.

In my very first edition of Writer's Digest to arrive at my door is an excellent article. I dog eared every page of the article and marked up several lines of invaluable advice. One of them got double underlined.

"Never annoy your readers." Steven James, Writer's Digest p. 22-25, Mar/Arp 2012
I agree wholeheartedly. I've also done it. Annoyed my readers, that is. I remember my friend Tracy giving me back her critique of the umpteenth draft of Bloom and begging me in a clearly annoyed voice {well, that's what I picture. It was a conversation via email}, "Why, why can't Finna and Liam be together? Why can't they at least kiss?"

Indeed, why not? Of course I had my reasons, but as a discussion with Tracy ensued, I realized that keeping them (relationship-wise) apart didn't mean I had to frustrate dear people like Tracy.

James goes on to write,
"Sometimes I read books in which the author withholds key information  from readers, presumably in an effort to create suspense. But failing to give readers what they want doesn't create suspense, it causes dissatisfaction."
I don't know how many times I've lamented with a writer over the fine line we, as authors, have to walk between giving too much information (if I had a nickel for every time a critiquer wrote "cut back story" in my MS's . . .) and not giving enough.

So what's the solution? One more bit of advice from James' article:
"As you write, constantly ask yourself what the readers want at this moment of the story. Then, give it to them--or surprise them with something even better."

1 comment:

  1. Yes! There are some books that I've read that have had some really annoying parts--or characters doing really annoying things that I JUST DON'T GET! I think the author is trying to build suspense, but if it is completely out of character, then resist!

    I've been thinking of renewing my WD subscription. Thanks for sharing.


About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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