Archive for March, 2015

When Content Trumps Mechanics

LettersThe other day I read an amazing story written by someone I know. The content of the story was gut-wrenching. The mechanics, however, were painful.

As a writer, I find it very difficult to turn off my internal editor.  When I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, it comes down to writing as fast as possible and typos be damned.  The only thing that could hamper your effort is when your brain starts dictating faster than your fingers can fly across the keyboard.

Yes, that happens.

But in day-to-day writing I typically edit as I go, doing a couple checks after it’s finished and before it’s published.  However, not everyone has that same anal-retentive need to scour pages for typos.  Hey, I get it; some people can let it go.  Me? Not so much.

The story I mentioned was so filled with passion and emotion that I found myself nearly speed-reading to see what would happen next.  Where would they go?  Would he find more trouble?  It’s that kind of “super-content” that lets me push that internal editor out the window and just enjoy the story.  Know what I mean?

Those are the kinds of stories that I really love.  When you’re just so enthralled and into the story that you feel like you’re almost a part of it; you’re sad when you reach the end.  You don’t care if there’s punctuation other than an occasional period involved, let alone worry about an Oxford comma or semicolon.  You’ve shut off the inner monologue, put down your always-at-the-ready red editing pen, and settled in for the sheer joy of the story.

Yep, that’s when you know the content trumps the mechanics.  Cheers to those who write.  And don’t fret, there’s always spell-check.

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Help, There’s a Red Herring in My Outline!

Walking, Feet, Gravel, Path, Shoes, Walk, Legs, Man

Are you a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer, AKA a “Pantser”?  Are you having trouble weaving plot twists and surprises into your stories?  I used to.  That is why I have become an outliner.

I used to write willy nilly with no guidance other than a vague idea of where I wanted to end up.  I figured if I just let the story flow out of me, it could take off in crazy tangents and there would be all kinds of adventure.  Not the case.

Now, I’m not saying that other people can’t write like that, but I personally cannot.  I have come to terms with the fact that I need to know where I am starting, roughly where I want to end, and start out heavily armed with all kinds of details and back-story for my characters.  It’s my path, I’ve dealt with it.

But that’s where I find my red herrings.

Since I know where I’m going and some of the side-story along the way, I can weave in those little red herrings just to confuse my readers.  Seriously, it is such a great feeling when one of your readers tells you they totally fell for your little bit of deception.

And if you’re unfamiliar with the concept of red herrings, it’s a false clue that distracts the reader or leads them down an incorrect path, you know, so you can have the element of surprise at the end.  Think of it as using the fish smell to conceal the real path from the bloodhound.  Make sense?

I tried to slip in a few of these little deceptions when I was a pantser.  It just didn’t work as well, and I ended up having to go back and do massive revisions.  Now when I utilize even a broad outline, I am able to insert those little distractions, leading the reader down a questionable path. But as a writer, isn’t that what it’s all about?  God bless those stinky little fish.