You Talk Too Much!

I very nearly wrote that back to an author I was doing some editing for over the weekend.

She’s actually a great writer, a real joy to work with. Normally, her stories are fairly tight and just need some light content, character, or grammar work. She’s starting to push her boundaries as a writer, though, and this time it showed. It’s okay, because I think working through this is going to make her even better.

I first ran across the term “resist the urge to explain” (RUE) in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, one of my favorite editing books. I’ve almost abused the term ever since. As it might imply, RUE is a reminder to not overexplain yourself. If you state something, don’t restate it. If you’re trying to convey that your character is frustrated or confused, show us that through the character’s words and actions. Don’t overtask poor little adverbs. If you feel the need to use “very” or “almost”, there’s probably a better way you can explain something to us.

Simply, many readers aren’t stupid. They have imaginations that lead them to choose a book over the television from time to time. They’re looking for you to give them enough to frame a scene so that they can fill in the blanks with knowledge from their own life, to form a connection with your story. Readers want to exist in your story. Give them that chance. Don’t overexplain. Don’t describe to death. Give adverbs a break.

In the end, you’ll find it also makes your writing stronger because you are becoming so adept at describing without beating the reader about the head and shoulders.

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