Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Making Your Writing Clear For Your Reader

A giant wind came roaring through around 5 this morning. It blew ferociously enough to wake me from a sound sleep. No going back to dreamland again, so I lay there listening to the strong wind that gusted with such intensity that I feared the same fate as two of the Three Little Pigs. Was the big, bad wolf outside our door? Or was it just Mother Nature letting us know that, even though we are having warm temps this week, we have to pay for it somehow. Now, hours later, the wind continues to blow steadily with occasional huge gusts.

While I lay awake early today listening to the wind, I started thinking about a poem that I had critiqued for a writer friend yesterday. While I loved some of the images in the poem, I found that I really had no understanding of what it was all about. Later, she wrote to thank me for the crit and told me a bit more about where she wrote the poem and what prompted it. Suddenly, it all became much clearer.

Writers of poetry, fiction, memoir and more often have trouble getting things across to the reader. The person writing is fully aware of what happened, where it happened, what the people looked like and how they acted. It's all in their mind and it's perfect. But--and it's a big 'but'--it's not always easy to write the scene so that the reader sees it completely the same.

When I write a memoir piece, I know the people well. I know the background of the characters and the situation. I try to make sure what I've written helps the reader to be able to see much of what I know. I don't always succeed so I try to read through a reader's eye when I do the editing.

Having my work critiqued by others helps with this problem of the writer not clarifying enough for the reader. If the person doing the crit is left with a "Huh?" then something needs to be done. It's not easy to do without adding way too much to what you've written. You need to clarify as much as you can by writing as little as you can to add to what your original piece is. Easy? Not at all.

The best advice I can give writers to correct this problem is to let the piece sit for several days. Then, read it trying to put yourself in your reader's mode. Look for areas that take too much for granted, places where you need to add it little to let the reader know more.  Another thing to do is to rely on help from others who will critique the piece for you. They'll catch this problem and maybe others, too.

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