Monday, December 9, 2013

Writing Tip: Arrive Late, Leave Early

With Christmas quickly approaching and all that comes with it (house cleaning, decorating, company, etc.), I'll be re-posting quite a bit this month.  This article originally appeared here on April 18, 2011. Great advice from bestselling author Robert Masello!

"Too many words..."
"Figure out what the action of the scene is going to be, or what its thrust is, and then start writing just a fraction before the action begins." Robert Masello, Robert's Rules of Writing, Rule 42: Make an Entrance

If you haven't guessed, Masello's Robert's Rules of Writing is one of my favorite craft books.  It's a small work jam packed with excellent advice!

I'm currently revising a WIP, and this rule reminds me that I don't need to fill up scenes with lots of superfluous information.

Masello uses the example of a scene that takes place in a lecture hall.  Is it really necessary to show the students filing in, the professor straightening his notes at the podium, then clearing his throat and beginning the lecture?

Absolutely not!  If the oncoming conflict is an argument that takes place between the protagonist and the professor, that results in the protagonist getting kicked out of school, focus on that.

Masello says, "If that's what the scene is about, if that's what moves the action of your story forward, then come in just before the argument flares up and out of control.  And once the expulsion is given, end the scene...Lingering in that lecture hall will only dilute the power of the confrontation."

In closing, get to the point, and know when to quit.  Rambling and meandering is okay in a first draft, but while revising, cut what's possible so the reader won't be bored!

Have you ever struggled with your characters' arrivals and departures into and out of scenes?  Thanks for visiting and have a great week!


William Kendall said...

Very good advice!

Old Kitty said...

Thanks for the sensible advice, Maria! Cutting straight to the action/scene to get the story moving onwards and upwards always helps! Take care

Maria McKenzie said...

@William: Thanks! It's helped me a lot;).

@Kitty: You're welcome! Yes, cutting to the action really does move things along:).

Intangible Hearts said...

I agree getting to the action is very smart but some writers don't develop the characters because they are busy shooting or dodging bullets. LOL

Maria said...

Hi Maria.

I was a great one for preliminaries. But not anymore. I've learnt that unless you open your story with a lift straight into the action for the reader, the reader won't go there. Strange how reading and writing styles have changed over the years

Norma said...

This brings back memories! This is something both my agent and my first editor had to pound into my don't have to throw in everything but the kitchen sink!

Maria McKenzie said...

Yup! It's so easy to put everything in there when it's not really necessary:).

shelly said...

Very helpful advice. Thank you.

Maria McKenzie said...

@Maria Mohan: I'm sorry, Maria. I missed your comment. The first time an editor looked at my work, she told me to jump right into the action. She said people who read ebooks tend to have shorter attention spans!

@Shelly: You are very welcome;)!

Maria McKenzie said...

@Eve: I'm sorry, Eve, I missed you too! Character development is so important! I've noticed that action movies put me to sleep. The explosions and car chases do nothong for me. I'd rather get involved with person to person conflict in a book or a movie!