Let’s Get Cooking

Chicken, that is. That’s what is in my oven right now, roasting away, trussed up and smothered with delicious herbs. And like chicken, clarity is a necessity to writing.

Huh? You might wonder about that.

Well. (And I might be reaching a wee bit now, but that chicken smells quite nice, and I am feeling peckish.) Bear with me.

The chicken won’t be finished until the juice runs nice and clear. Not murky and pinkish. Only when there’s clarity is my delicious chicken finished and ready for me to eat. And I hope awfully that it happens soon.

The same thing is true about writing. Even if your work is complex, it still needs clarity. Readers need to clearly see what is going on within your story to keep them turning the pages. Here’s what the all-knowing 25 have to say:

13. Clarity
You have to lead your audience through a tapestry of facts, ideas and events. No matter what you’re trying to get across, you have to get it across, so keep it simple—unless complexity improves it.
In 30 minutes, examine your work for the following:

  • A Stake in the Action: Readers need one. Drop the first shoe early to get them listening for the second, and give them something to care about.
  • Logic: It’s the most important element of clarity. If you’ve written something that doesn’t quite connect, try saying, out loud, “What I’m really trying to say is …” and then finish the thought. Sounds crazy, but it usually works.
  • Bumps in the Road: Check your work for brilliant phrases that you’d love to use somewhere, anywhere—but that interrupt the momentum. I used to cut and paste my elegant gems into a “futures” file; it rightfully became a cemetery.
  • Verbosity: Avoid longish, meandering quotations by paraphrasing. Save the quotation marks for particularly revealing or quotable statements.
  • Jargon: Save it for cocktail parties—unless it’s the everyday language of your audience.

I agree with that. Unless you’re writing a hardcore sci-fi novel full of tech words that your target audience will expect and understand, leave out the jargon. Clarity can also tie in with word choice in other ways — your choice of vocabulary can either include or alienate an audience. If you plan to target international audiences, write with attention to your local dialect and omit phrasing in the narrative that would create understanding barriers between you and your audience (dialect can be excluded from this, especially if you are artful about explaining slang and localized phrases that might not be widely understood).

I know that when the Harry Potter books were published in the States, many words were changed in order to create more clarity for American audiences. For instance, changing “biscuit” to “cookie.” (Not sure if that’s an actual example, but it’s close.

My chicken is done, and I’m hungry. Plus, zombies and Walking Dead.

Bye bye!


About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on October 23, 2011, in writing process and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Let’s Get Cooking.

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