Have you every listened to someone who is a terrible storyteller as they tried to summarize a movie plot or recall a life event. Perhaps they got easily distracted by insignificant side stories. Or maybe the details were disjointed and jumped around. Did they leave something important out, only to later wedge it in at the conclusion? Whatever their struggle, it assuredly had the effect of breaking your engagement with the tale.
Editors have long lists of common mistakes that they look for in writing, especially if the author is a novice. Many of the issues, such as head-hopping perspectives and info dumps, have the effect of damaging a reader’s engagement. Too much information results in boredom and distraction, while too little makes a world feel parched and uninteresting. Unorganized details cause confusion. Authors must be vigilant in rooting out such weaknesses in their writing.
You the author have spent hours wrapping your mind around the character, setting, and backstory. Your readers, however, are experiencing everything with fresh eyes. Be mindful of them and their perspective gap. The lessons to be learned are too many to be covered in a brief article, but here are some quick pointers.
In honor of all those crazy folks doing National Novel Writing Month, I present The NaNoWriMo Family Takes a Road Trip
Dad: Check out the odometer. Another 5,000 words down-
Mom: LOOK OUT!
Mom: You just hit a typo.
Mom: Should we go back to help it out?
Dad: There's no time.
Mom: But what if we don't see it on the way back-
Dad: THERE'S NO TIME!
Mom: Would you PLEASE pay attention. You hit another one.
Mom: And now you've hit a grammatical mistake! Just pull over to let me drive.
Dad: No, I've got this.
Mom: At least pull over so we can use the restroom.
Dad: There's no time! Here. Use this soda bottle.
Mom: Well, would you at least hand me the map so I can plot our course?
Dad: Plotting? We'll never get there if we do that.
Kid: Are we there yet?
Dad: No! We have 35,000 more words to go, and if you keep asking, I will turn us around at the next paragraph.
Mom: Watch out ahead. Cops like to sit at this word sprint.
Kid: Susie said her mom only has 20,000 more words left.
Dad: Well, hurrah for Susie's mom. Some of us actually type words that are longer than two syllables long.
Kid: Susie said her mom's book is better than yours.
Dad: Well, you can tell Susie that now she's dying in chapter 16.