Writing Tip: Take A Break

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So I know this might seem counterproductive, but one of the biggest things I’ve learned in the 5+ years I’ve been writing is…

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Learning From The Masters: On Subtlety

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So I want to talk about one of my favorite things in fiction…

Subtlety.

I’ve already written about how one of my biggest pet peeves in books is showing and telling. I also wrote a post on how to not do that. 

I think the best novels are ones that show you everything that’s happening–then leave it to you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions. Books like this treat you like you’re smart–the author knows they don’t have to spell everything out for you.

There is one writer I know of who does this exceptionally well, but the example I’m going to give is kind of a big spoiler for this book. So I’m not going to tell you which book or writer it is. I’ve also omitted character names.

For background info: in this novel, a female detective is investigating the murder of a pregnant woman. Earlier on, she finds a notebook where the murdered woman had kept track of her monthly cycles. The detective also hints about a past tryst with a coworker that left her feeling kind of empty, to put it mildly. These people also live in a country where abortion is illegal.

And then, near the end of the novel, we get this passage:

I’m not her, I’m not clockwork, specially not when I’m wrecked and stressed and wretched. By the time the terrible sinking feeling kicked in, I had moved to Domestic Violence, he had been bounced into bureaucratic limbo somewhere and all our bridges were burned to bitter ash; he had gone so far away I couldn’t even see him on the other side. I didn’t tell anyone. I got the boat to England before dawn one sleety Saturday and was back in my dark flat that night—the plane would have been faster but I couldn’t take it, the thought of sitting still for an hour each way, squashed elbow to elbow between strangers. I walked up and down the deck of the boat instead. On the way back the sleet came down harder, soaked me to the bone; if there had been anyone else on deck they would have thought I was crying, but I wasn’t, not even once.

In case you didn’t get it, this character is telling you that she got pregnant as a result of her tryst of her coworker, and then elected to get an abortion.

But at no point in this narrative–or anywhere in the novel–does the character state “I had an abortion.” Instead, the author takes what you already know about that character and the story and presents you with this scene of the detective on a boat on a sleety dark day–and leaves you to figure out exactly what it was that happened.

Of course, not stating things outright means there are some readers who won’t get it. For example, in discussions forums for the above book, some people wrote they had no idea this character had had an abortion. But that’s why it’s so important to read closely (especially in detective novels).

I’m definitely going to be incorporating this into my own writing. How about you?

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Friday Things

tumblr_n2fa25XqMI1rs8w78o1_500Four of the greatest words in the English language: this too shall pass.

I’m hoping for a less stressful weekend than the week I had, in which hopefully some dangling issues regarding our impending move will be resolved. Regardless I’m going to try and stay positive and remind myself that some things are just out of my control.

Here are three things that made my week:

1. This road trip to Maine sounds lovely and amazing and it’s now on my list of places to go.

2. Test your vocab. (I didn’t do as well as I thought I would.)

3. This Tumblr is making me laugh, and laughter is something we could all use more of.

Reading: Still this. But not at night. At night I embarked on a reread of this lovely novel, and actually decided to up my rating from four stars to five. I was confused as to why I only gave it four stars to begin with, then I remembered I read it directly after this amazing book, so I must have been comparing. Note to self: comparisons are no good.

Watching: The movie version of this book, which I adored, is now on Netflix. I plan to watch it tonight while cooking dinner.

Listening to: Gaslight Anthem, particularly this song.

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Learning from the Masters: Voice

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Time for a look at another brilliant example of writer voice! This week I’m picking an unusual one…

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MK’s Book Reviews: Looking for Alaska

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With this uber-popular John Green novel (that was redundant) set to become a movie, I thought I’d add my own book review to the undoubtedly dozens out there…

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You Can’t Rest on Good Writing

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So I’m taking a writing class this summer at this fine institution. (It’s awesome. I highly recommend it.)

The structure of the class is that each week, some students hand in writing submissions, and the next week you’re “workshopped”, meaning everyone tells you what they thought. When it was my turn, the teacher of the class had something really interesting to say…

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