Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Finding Clarity in our Words

When we write, we communicate our ideas and stories. We paint worlds of colour and shapes, texture and taste, concept and sound. We populate our worlds with characters who gain a life of their own and people with whom we want to fall in love. When we first put pen to paper we often create chaos, so how do we find clarity in the mishmash of ideas, how do we find focus?

There are questions we can ask ourselves before we even begin:

What exactly do I want to achieve? Sometimes when a scene refuses to work, it’s because we may have lost our direction, or we’re unclear about the scene’s purpose. Asking this question will help us find clarity. It will also help us with the decision to save or toss scenes.

Who is my audience? With whom do I wish to communicate? Often we tell ourselves, “I write for me”, but, if we want our words heard and our stories read, then our audience is greater than ourselves. We need to know who it is we wish to connection with so we can adjust our writing.

And then there are questions we can ask ourselves when we edit:

Have I said what I meant to say? So often we think we are saying one thing, only to discover we’ve said something else. Often we will need to go back and remind ourselves about the purpose.

Is what I’ve said relevant? Often we can waffle on and lose ourselves in the joy of description and discovery. We need to remind ourselves our readers won’t always share the same joy especially if they sense us waver from the path of our stories.

When your words threaten to become mud, what do you do?

42 comments:

  1. These are great and relevant questions! Very helpful, thank you. :)

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  2. Very good timing on these questions since I'm working on my first revision step. Thanks!

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  3. First draft is for me, the second is for my readers.

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  4. These are great key questions.
    When everything is clear as mud, I take a break.

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  5. ooh, saying something and then discovering you've said something else is one of the dark shadows which can often come later on to collect its debt ....it makes me scared ....

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  6. I switch the word document off!! It's always worth stepping back and away from the wip for abit to clear one's mind!

    These are very important questions to ask ourselves as we write or even think of writing! Thank you, take care
    x

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  7. Janna, glad they helped.

    Terri, oo, good luck with your revisions :)

    Happy, so true!

    Mary, yep, I have to take a break sometimes too, just so I can remember my purpose again.

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  8. Dezzy, yeah, I have one of those dark shadows that hover about and hope I slip up. Makes me shudder.

    Old Kitty, Absolutely. Distance aids clarity! I should have added that into the post.

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  9. I take a break, maybe read someone else's work, go for a walk, bake cookies. Put the ms away for a while. It usually works.

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  10. Focus comes really easy when under a deadline. You don't entertain anything that gets you off track. So, I've learned. I need more deadlines.

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  11. some really good questions Lynda.
    Time... if I leave some space between each read thru - then I can see what needs to be fixed/changes

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  12. Great advice, and so crucial to the whole thing...

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  13. I love "Is what I said Relevant" That is one for the rule books!! Fantastic post.

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  14. Some of us don't figure out our audience until after we've written the book - or even after it comes out! (And now that I know, I'm gearing the sequel to the audience that enjoyed it the most.)
    And I am so glad you enjoyed it, Lynda!! That just made my night...

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  15. the relevant thing gets me all the time! i write a whole bunch of words, then look back at them and realize i only need like a quarter of them!! :D

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  16. Tahlianewland,hmm, I haven't baked cookies in a while...maybe that might help ;)

    M Pax, oh yes, deadlines are awesome. Personally, I love them.

    Michelle, for sure, time cures most ills.

    Words Crafter, thanks :)

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  17. L A Colvin, it does help to tighten the prose :)

    Alex, I'm looking forward to the sequel. CASSASTAR was GREAT!!!!!

    Aspiring, hehe yep. Someitmes it's good to indulge and explore, but then we have to be strong and do some serious cutting.

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  18. When my words become muddied, I spray them off with soap and water (figuratively, of course, not literally!)

    Revision really helps me get clarity into my words. Your questions are a great checklist for such!

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  19. Great advice, thank you! I usually take a break and try to clear my head. I usually come back a little less muddled :)

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  20. Good advice, especially the one on evaluating if what we said is really getting across. It's so frustrating to have someone read a scene only to have them get a completely different interpretation than what we were aiming for.

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  21. This is such a good point. Sometimes I get a scene in my head and then write it down, but during revision, I realize that it doesn't fit my vision at all.

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  22. Really, really great questions! I've got to crack down on my irrelevance. (:

    Also, you've got a blog award waiting for you over here: http://nindogs.blogspot.com/2011/02/versatile-blogger-award.html

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  23. Jeffrey, I think literally could potentially work as well ;)

    WritingNut, breaks always help.I think I'll be needing one soon.

    Mary Mary, it is frustrating, but I guess that's part of the challenge, and why not anyone and everyone can write.

    Melissa, I did that more when I didn't outline. Outlining helps to keep me on track. I still find sections that don't fit, but not as much.

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  24. nindogs, oh, thanks so much for the award. :)

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  25. What an interesting post! I wanted to let you know about a giveaway I'm offering on my blog http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/ Come by if you get a chance!

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  26. I leave and come back later. There is usually something else I can work on. If not, then take two or three days off from writing, rest up, get a new perspective, do something crazy (don't get caught) then come back with a vengeance!

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  27. These are great questions to ask during edits. When I feel that my words have started to become mud, I start deleting them.

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  28. I highlight the section or problem phase in red and come back to it later after it's stewed a while. My subconscious gets to work on it that way. :)

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  29. Great questions to ask oneself and keep in mind during the process. Good points to mull over for sure.

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  30. Great questions, Lynda! When the words threaten to overwhelm me, I ask myself these same questions!

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  31. Great focus questions! Sometimes I redo the whole story or scene from a different perspective. It's enlightening.

    ~Carla @ Carla-Jansen.blogspot.com

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  32. These are wonderful questions. And if at any time we can't answer them, we need to go back and rework our manuscript.

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  33. These are wonderful questions. And if at any time we can't answer them, we need to go back and rework our manuscript.

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  34. Great questions! Very helpful, thank you:) I found your blog on Rach Writes blog under her crusades post. I'm glad I did, great blog!

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  35. Charmaine, thanks

    Sylvia, glad you thought it was interesting

    Stephen, now you have my interest piqued...what kinda crazy things do you get up to? ;)

    Rachna, yep, that's what I do too :)

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  36. Carol, for sure. I mark the sections that need fixing if I can't fix them on the spot. I'm not so sure my subconscious does any work though. I think it's alseep most of the time ;)

    Ann, thanks

    Talli, cool!

    Carla, Yes, I've heard this works for many people. I've only done it for short stories.

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  37. Clarissa, that's an excellent point. If we can't answer those questions with any satisfaction, then, yes, we need to do some reworking otherwise our ms will remain substandard.

    Amanda, oh cool! Welcome :)
    I'll be posting about the crusade tomorrow :)

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  38. I do just what you said, I step back and ask myself questions about if the scene is doing what I intended it to do. Usually I find that if I'm having trouble with a scene, it's because I'm unclear about its purpose or I have a character acting in a way he wouldn't act or something else like that. Really evaluating my purpose for the scene usually straightens things out.

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  39. Excellent questions for a writer to ask themself. I don't get it when writers say, "I write for me". I write what I'd like to read, but I want others to be able to enjoy it as well.
    When things start getting muddy I start editing.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  40. Put the piece down, and reread my chapter outline. Go work on something else. Come back the next day, reread chapter outline then read chapter again.

    Sometimes I find I don't want to delete something because I think I wrote it so well. Only thing is, it doesn't belong where it is.

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  41. Susan, these questions aren't always easy to answer, but if we take the time and really think about it, then like you said, we are usually able to straighten things out :)

    Arlee, I've read a few self-pubbed books that are obviously written for the author alone ;)

    M Pax, oh yes, I've come across that problem. That's when I save a new version of the document so I get to keep the good writing in the old version, but I also get to remove it in the new. win win.

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