Have you ever heard this maxim? Resist the urge to explain. I’ve been itching to share this phrase for months, but I couldn’t figure out how. So I decided today to just dive in an see what happens! And then see how my editor skills kick in when I really need them—to edit my self! But I digress, and am veering into explaining…
When you’re writing your book, you live with your characters every day. You spend more time with them than anyone, and you know them better than they know themselves. Right? And that’s as it should be; you are their Benevolent Creator. I bet you’re also really excited to share them with the world. Who hasn’t talked about book characters like they have flesh and blood? You love writing about them, and every aspect of their lives is meaningful. And you should know all about your characters—why they do what they do, what makes them tick. It’s what makes you the expert you are, and why your writing breathes life. It’s why your reader will love your characters too.
Here’s the thing though…
There are certain things—many things, actually—that we do not need to know. Because a little bit of mystery is a good thing. Especially in a book. And this is where your first draft and first round of self-edits come into play. When you write that first draft, by all means write all. the. things. ALL the things! And when it comes time to edit, RESIST THE URGE TO EXPLAIN. Any information that is not directly pertinent to the story at hand has to go—it can go in a file in case you realize you need it, but it has to go.
You write down everything that comes out of your brain. And then you pare it down to the bones of the story. Resist telling your reader about that one time, when your character was in band camp, and she drank so much root beer that she kept burping into her tuba. It might be the reason she’s totally self-conscious about burping in public, but we probably don’t ever need to know it. I mean… do you really want to embarrass her?
If you’re having trouble figuring out what is important and what isn’t, you might want to engage a book coach or developmental editor. Or you might just want to let it rest and come back to it in a week or two. Read the story as if you’re a stranger to it and mark out anything that doesn’t move the story forward.
Need help with even that? Let me know. We can talk about it. Or you can talk; I will listen. I bet you’ll come up with your own solutions if you have a sounding board to work with!