Pub Rants

An Observation On An Observation

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STATUS: Another gorgeous day and guess what? A lovely walk home is Chutney’s favorite part of the day.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WAITING IN VAIN by Bob Marley

Here’s another culprit that can sink your opening pages or opening chapters.

I call it double trouble. It’s when a writer has a terrific scene, great dialogue, good character reveal, what have you… then the writer feels the need to analyze the scene over again from a main character’s inner thought monologue.

Ack! When I do charity 30-page critiques, I spend a lot of time deleting out this kind of repetition. By the way, established writers sometimes do this too and this is when you hope that the author has a great editor who will judiciously cut these moments.

Writers do it to make sure the reader fully understands or gets the joke.

Trust me, if you did your scene right, you won’t need this inner monologue contemplation.

While I was at the SCBWI conference over the weekend, it occurred to me that I should create a workshop on how to critique. The audience would be critique partners looking to develop their skills so as to help one another.

I think I would call it Critique Like An Agent.

34 Responses

  1. Shell Flower said:

    Great advice, and another excellent idea. Critiquing isn’t easy and it’s so necessary. Finding a good crit. partner is like finding a prince in a sea of frogs.

  2. C. said:

    I’m so guilty of this. I attribute it to trying to explain movie plots to my (otherwise completely brilliant) father. Watching ‘Inception’ with him made me drink. Heavily.

  3. Diana said:

    I stopped reading Stephanie Laurens because she does this or something similar to it. Pages and pages of inner angst which is a repeat of the previous chapter’s innner angst. Internal whining does not move a plot forward.

  4. Anne R. Allen said:

    Echoing Diana above, I learned the same thing about public speaking: tell them what you’re going to say, then say it, then say what you’ve told them. We should NOT do this in fiction. I also see “topic sentences” in newbie fiction, especially by academics. It’s hard to unlearn this stuff, but we need to. Great post.

  5. Rena said:

    Oh, Please set up a crit like an agent workshop. I’ve been finding myself increasingly in a position to read the work of others and I’d love to hear your opinion on it.

  6. Sunflower said:

    I’m guilty of this, at least in first draft because I’m trying to understand every scene’s importance and laying it all out for myself to understand.

    I think a how to critique workshop would be brilliant!

  7. elucreh said:

    When I had the time, I used to edit novels for a friend of mine who has what she calls a “Machete Squad”; several of us with editing strengths and weaknesses: proofreaders, plot hole spotters, identifiers of modifier over-use. One of my strengths is seeing what I call the two-by-four of exposition. My call to arms “Stop whacking me over the head! She misses her crazy mother, yes, yes, WE GET IT!”

    It’s really fun, actually, to get a new draft after it’s been through two or three machete experts; after a while I got to be able to tell who’d just finished with the draft because the action would be cleaner, the commas would all be in the right place, or the angst would be less melodramatic. If a workshop could encapsulate the knowledge of a whole Machete Squad combined, it would be one of the best workshops ever!

  8. Kristi said:

    Would love a workshop on this!

    It’s something I catch myself doing all the time (which makes me wonder how many times I DON’T catch it!)

    ps-LOVE the title of this post. Gave me a good Friday laugh.

  9. Anne A said:

    Excellent idea for a workshop!

    And regarding the repetition, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one plagued by this habit. I’ve managed to cut huge percents of word counts by just not repeating things! I call it the “show, don’t show and tell” problem.

  10. Elizabeth Poole said:

    I second what Amy requested: Any way to do that as a webinar? I would LOVE to attend, because I think honing your critiquing skills helps your editing skills as well. But I am 5 months pregnant and won’t be traveling anytime soon. But I can pay for a webinar!

    Also, for those who asked about their own Machete Squad: there’s a website called LadiesWhoCritique that is a pool of people looking for crit partners. It’s a forum, and has a very relaxed atmosphere. Anyone, even guys, can join.

    Elucreh: I know which writer you’re talking about and I think that’s AWESOME you got to beta read for her. I LOVE that series to little pieces, and the author seems like the coolest person ever! It renewed my faith in urban fantasy. So kudos to you!

  11. John said:

    Great post. Thank you! Now, can you just go ahead and edit about half the books written? 🙂

    It’s the literary equivalent of nudge nudge didjagettit?

  12. Kristin Laughtin said:

    I would love to attend that workshop! Anything that helps us think like an agent or editor is going to help us as writers.

    (Ack! And now I’m going to be worried about reanalyzing everything. It’s something I’ve noticed in many books and that I know I used to do a lot, but I think I’ve gotten better. I hope so!)

  13. kdoyle said:

    The redundant inner monologue bugs me as a reader, so I try to avoid it when writing. And a “how to critique” workshop sounds like a great idea!

  14. Gladspooky said:

    Some people just can’t put a scene down. The problem is the reader doesn’t want to see it from every conceivable angle unless it’s God’s True Word From On High or something. Instead of describing what already happened, you should probably go back in and cut it down even further. If it’s truly remarkable, the reader’s going to be thinking about it later, and there’s your main character’s inner monologue about the thing they just witnessed. It’s just that it’s in the reader’s head, not on the page.