Give the Reader a Little Credit

“Assume they are wearing pants.”

pants

I’m not certain which famous author wrote that in an article I read in which rich and well-known writers were asked for their best piece of writing advice.

I’m also not certain how many times I’ve quoted it to creative writing students. It used to hang on a little sticky note on my computer monitor, but it’s probably lost amongst the dust bunnies behind my desk now, the sticky long since dried up.

I’m a wordy writer. If it weren’t for the countless editors who forced me to bend to their word count will, I probably never would have been published. I tend to over-tell you what’s happening, repeat myself, as it were.

When you’re writing a clever personal essay where voice is the most engaging feature, you can get away with extra words. But in fiction, readers have no patience for the writer who explains every turn of the doorknob and unfolding of a napkin.

‘Assume they are wearing pants’ means that there is much you can trust the reader to figure out on his or her own.

You don’t need to write that your character brushed his teeth or pulled on his pants or went to the potty or drove to work. You can trust your reader to figure out by the time your character ‘stepped out of the elevator on the sixth floor of the Bronson building ready to conquer the world or at least the part of the world that dealt with Fifteen-millimeter straws ’ that all of that has happened.

But maybe your character was late? You might need a few of those steps. ‘Fred brushed his teeth, as he drove, weaving in and out of his lane frustrated by the slowpoke in front of him mentally rehearsing his presentation which should have started ten minutes ago. In the elevator, he noticed his socks didn’t match and he had toothpaste on his tie.’

I still didn’t tell you that he put his pants on, but I’m pretty sure you know he’s wearing pants. Otherwise, everyone in the elevator would be staring at him, right?

Details are important, but the only details you need to include are the important ones.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

COMING AUGUST 7 2018 FROM Pegasus Books (available for preorder now:

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Just Found My Suspenders

I am hard at work on yet another re-write of a manuscript that I have been working on now for almost eight years.

Enough already.

You would think, wouldn’t you?

And yet I can’t give up.

When my agent tossed the latest re-write back at me insisting it needed yet another overhaul, I was crushed. Continue reading “Just Found My Suspenders”

Embrace the Yuck

Last post I was ready to take on the world.

This post, I’m thinking maybe it would be best if I just slunk away and holed up somewhere with my dog. Maybe on a mountain, out of cell-phone range.

mountain

Writing, especially publishing, is much like ping pong.

Writing-is-like-ping pong

You’re amazing – You suck – You’re brilliant – You’re an idiot – You’re happy – You’re devastated.

Maybe it’s the nature of an artist (is that what I am?) to feel such high highs and such low lows.

Today it is gray, cold, unwelcoming.

My agent informs me that my re-written manuscript (the one in which I was certain I’d finally nailed it) is still not up to snuff.

I began to re-read my in-progress manuscript, remembering how fabulous I thought it was when I started and realized it’s horrible. Plain horrible. I don’t even want to read it.

The article I’m working on keeps spinning in circles. I can’t find a flow, a structure, or even, really, a point.

Several of my latest efforts to ‘try something new’ to get my books out there, have been met with technicalities, false hopes, no-thank yous, and hidden (impossible) costs.

Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads, the major marketing tools of most authors, have once again, changed the rules and I’m too untechy-savy/late-to-the-game/old to figure it out.

Ugh.

I need a pep talk.

I can (still) do this.

But maybe for today, I’ll need to embrace the yuck. Let it have its way. Eat the leftover apple cobbler, stay in my jammies, and lay around reading books written by real writers who know what they’re doing.

Just for today, I will not try. I’ll hang out with my dog. Embrace the suckiness of my situation in all it’s awful glory.

Tomorrow, I’ll get back at it.

Promise.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

 

Inner Supreme Court

I read a post recently by another writer I much admire and in it she used the phrase, “Inner Supreme Court.”

I recently received an opinion that brought that clever phrase to life. And I’ve realized that the decision to accept or reject it is mine to make. If only it were that simple.

When it comes to any decision — about writing or life — you have to trust your Inner Supreme Court. You can get lots of opinions and recommendations. You can listen to other people’s experiences and warnings. You can indulge possibilities and dreams, but ultimately when it’s time to decide you have to trust that only your Inner Supreme Court knows what is best for you.

I’ve been trying this particular case in my court all week. The case involves a huge re-write of a novel I’ve been polishing for over five years. I’m anxious to bring this story to light. I think it is ready. I think it has an important and timely message, but my agent wants me to gut out yet another re-write.

So, I’ve been gathering opinions, reading genre definitions (since this is the reason for the re-write), and taking long walks with my foster dog who is recovering from a broken jaw (thanks to a misunderstanding with one of my horses).

Sometimes I’m indignant.

My beta readers love this story! I’ve already put more than a thousand hours into it. These characters are my friends. I know them inside and out. What if she’s wrong?

Sometimes I’m self-flagellating.

I suck at this. I cannot write. I should shelve it and take a class and learn to write. I should plant blueberries all over the pasture, kick the horses out, and start a pick-and-pay business.

Sometimes I present evidence.

So-and-so read it, and says this will be the book. The one that makes the NYT bestseller list. I’ve mapped this book, edited it within an inch of its life. I’ve probably cut as many words as I’ve written. I’ve changed names, settings, killed my darlings, and read it out loud. It’s good. It’s really good.

And sometimes I try to see the side of the prosecution.

Maybe she has a point. Maybe there’s more story buried here underneath the overly polished surface. Maybe I just need to dig deeper. Maybe I need to set my ego and impatience aside.

For now, the justices are still hearing testimony. No decision has been made. And the court just might recess for the fourth of July holiday and spend some much needed downtime with the latest batch of foster puppies driving me to distraction.

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But soon enough, it will be time to make that decision. I’ll stop asking for advice and sympathy and more time.

As a writer it’s much too easy to see all the sides. But deep down, when I finally close the door of my courtroom, I do trust that my own Inner Supreme Court has been listening and taking all the testimony into account, and while they might not be in complete agreement, they will make the right decision.

And I’ve gotta trust that.

And maybe trust is the hardest part. As usual.

Sigh.

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my writing and books, check out CaraWrites.com

If you’d like to know more about life with foster puppies, visit my blog Another Good Dog.

Have a wonderful holiday and trust your Inner Supreme Court!

Blessings,

Cara

p.s. Great thanks to Kathryn Craft for the phrase that inspired this post. (Check out her wonderful books!)