Writing, when you think about it, can be rather like cleaning the house. That’s to say if you’re a writer, you have to write. And if you live in any accommodation short of a coal bin, you have to clean.
The problem with cleaning your house is that it gets dirty again. Consider my kitchen floor. It’s a glorious, golden maple marked by eighty years of family life. Recently, my own family announced plans to visit so I swept it, mopped it, and waxed it. Boy, did it shine.
Then, a rogue brussels sprout skidded across the floor, leaving a trail of butter sauce. The scent of broiling lamb chops drew my drooling dog to the kitchen. After the meal, I spilled a hot cup of coffee—complete with cream and sugar. I wiped up these messes, but the damage was done. Now, my kitchen floor isn’t just dirty. It’s downright sticky!
Writing is the exact same way. You may think you’re done with that draft, but are you? Time and your trusted critique group can help you decide. In my case, the opening scene, which seemed so spic and span, is really a sticky situation. It snags readers on too many points instead of sending them on into the rest of the story. My manuscript doesn’t touch their hearts because too many questions are sticking in their heads.
How does a writer fix this kind of sticky situation? I’m treating my opening scene like my kitchen floor. Instead of a quick swipe, I’m going back to the beginning and cleaning it up.
In my current revision, I’m asking myself what does the reader need to know right now?
Next, I make a list of those things, and I keep the list short.
I work hard to reveal each listed point in description, dialogue, and action.
I cut anything that doesn’t fall under the heading of Needs to Know Right Now, but I save these bits. After all, the reader will need to know those details as my story progresses. If she doesn’t need to know them now, they don’t belong in this scene. If she doesn’t need to know them ever, they don’t belong in the manuscript.
Just like cleaning the floor, cleaning up this opening scene is proving to be hard work. I’ll get it done, though. Once I’m finished with it, hopefully, it’ll shine.
Now, the Rockville 8 wants to know what part of your manuscript is the sticky part? How do you plan to fix it? Which household chore do you hate the most? If I promise you tea and cake afterward, will you come over and mop my kitchen floor?
Monday, May 23, 2011
My Kitchen Floor and Other Sticky Situations
Posted by Nichole Christoff
Nichole Christoff is a writer, broadcaster, and military spouse who's worked on-air and behind-the-scenes writing, editing, producing, and promoting content for radio, television, and the PR industry across the United States and Canada. Her latest thriller from Random House Alibi is THE KILL BOX and it's a Library Journal "Best Books 2015: E-Original pick." Nichole's fiction has won both the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart and the Helen McCloy-Mystery Writers of America Scholarship. She has been shortlisted for a Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, too. She loves nothing more than getting lost in a good book . . . unless it would be trying to write one!